The initial impression given by a name like Good Fuck is one of smirking juvenilia; no surprise, as half the Chicago duo is none other than Tim Kinsella, something of an emo godfather, whose own antics have periodically landed him back in the muck of the genre’s own regressive tendencies. However, alongside Jenny Pulse, the name Good Fuck bends itself backwards into a rather concise summation of the sounds the two artists tinker with and distort across their newest record, Cherry Tree. A mixture of sickly and/or sweet textures, the inclusion of expletive “fuck” conveys the harsher, noisier facets of the duo’s sound, while “good” implies a kind of blunt sensuality, especially apparent when Pulse’s honeyed vocals cut through the din; a Good Fuck, as it were.
Kinsella has consistently churned out low-key projects over the past few decades, and although Cherry Tree can play just as casually, it’s thankfully self-contained enough that one need not be familiar with Cap’n Jazz or Joan of Arc. Ten tracks of four-to-the-floor beats with varying degrees of both pop appeal and darkwave leanings. The lyric sheet is mostly nonsense (“cinnamon rain / before before”, “grip your function / under its robe”), occasionally stumbling across nuggets of evocativeness; “I need a deep-cleaning poem to walk me home” sings Kinsella on “Missing People”, his timbre sounding at least partially inspired by the vibrato of Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart.
The vocal interplay between Kinsella and Pulse –– ranging from deadpan muttering to ethereal breathiness –– posits them as a low-key parallel to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, as they cycle through elliptical imagery and different deliveries. The crunchy “Flow Flow” sounds transplanted straight from a New York No Wave comp, and shot through modern pop electronics. Then on the following song, “Strange Pair”, Kinsella sings with the earnestness expected from an emo stalwart, on the album’s clear highlight. As if to keep the album from then growing too accessible, Kinsella and Pulse throw in the cheekily titled “Theme Song”, an instrumental dirge of whirring electronics.
Kinsella’s pivot towards such a collection of sounds is unfortunately somewhat predictable, but as the bands he’s remained relatively adjacent to have cultivated ever-growing cult followings, it’s heartening to witness him continue to amass new iterations and projects of his own sound. There’s nothing revelatory on Cherry Tree, but it’s sturdy nonetheless.