Cold Cave - Cherish The Light Years Album Review
While there's always been an aversion for transatlantic influences to rise to the fore as far back as when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were covering rock and roll standards and obscure delta blues ditties respectively, that trend seems to have reversed in recent years with America's underground now largely in thrall to the UK's more diverse and inspiring artistes. The likes of Interpol, The Rapture, The Drums and Radio 4 to name but four all probably wouldn't exist in the way we know them were it not for a shared love of British punk and its post years, while even more experimental acts of a dancefloor persuasion such as LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles and Gang Gang Dance owe more than a debt of thanks to a host of seminal Anglophile acts both past and present.
So, bearing all of the above in mind, Cold Cave's preference in musical icons should come as little surprise, taking its main course of direction somewhere between the M62 stops of Manchester's Factory Records and perhaps less obvious destination of Leeds circa 1982, when Andrew Eldritch and the hierarchy of Goth's first wave ruled supreme. Occasionally taking diversions via the less salubrious confines of Basildon and Birmingham, Wesley Eisold and his fellow associates can undoubtedly count themselves among the most well versed in modern-day music.
But then what else would you expect from someone who spent his embryonic years as a musician and songwriter travelling from state to state honing his craft in various hardcore and noise bands. These days, Eisold spends his time fluctuating between Manhattan and New York, and at times on 'Cherish The Light Years', his second full-length album as Cold Cave, it shows. Veering from the seedy underbelly of NYC's basement electro clubs to the more traditional chagrin of guitar-bass-drums-vocals orchestrated pop via the occasional brass section for good measure. Yes, that wasn't a misprint, 'Cherish The Light Years' features a brass section that both proves both disorientating and delectable yet utterly unique for 2011.
We haven't even got onto the impressive cast of guest musicians contributing here as yet, but alongside staple members of Cold Cave's current line-up Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient) and one time Mika Miko vocalist Jennifer Clavin, Eisold has also recruited Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner, Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo, Hatebreed's Sean Martin and legendary hardcore face Tonie Joy, best known for his work in Moss Icon among what reads like a who's who of the American underground music scene's most influential artists of the past couple of decades.
With esteemed producer Chris Coady also on board, fresh from working with TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Delorean among others, it's little wonder that 'Cherish The Light Years' marks a vast departure in terms of sound from 2009's debut 'Love Comes Close'. Sure the penchant for Peter Hook proffered basslines still exists - 'Catacombs' takes its cue from New Order's 2001 single 'Crystal' while the industrial beats that punctuate 'Confetti' mix well with a melody more akin to earlier works from arguably Manchester's finest such as 'Dreams Never End'. However, there's a darker, claustrophobic feel here than on its predecessor that's highlighted dramatically on the opening 'The Great Pan Is Dead', a song in two parts that starts off like a death disco epic from London's Batcave before unravelling itself as possibly the greatest song Talking Heads never wrote.
Indeed for anyone that's been fortunate enough to witness Cold Cave live in the flesh, such intrinsic dalliances with the dark side won't come as a surprise. The sprightly, brass-fuelled pop of 'Alchemy And You' will though, turning what sounds like an incongruous slab of post-punk into an homage to 'Searching For The Young Soul Rebels' era Dexys or long lost agit-poppers The Redskins. "We are the tender missionaries from the underworld USA" sings Eisold during the electro stomp of 'Underworld USA' before declaring "In the tender cemetery where we always are" at the song's outset, while the sonic landscape of penultimate epic 'Burning Sage' is possibly the most dynamic, slow-building grandiosity Cold Cave have penned thus far and starkly contrasts with anything on 'Love Comes Close''s salient pop frenzy.
There are moments when Cold Cave do hark back to the summer of 2008 when they first came to the attention of their UK audience. 'Icons Of Summer' reigns in floor crushing synths over a chorus that seems to imply "Every time I lift my eyes the sun is going down" while 'Pacing Around The Church' seems to have borrowed the new rave mantle from Klaxons et al and taken it for a nostalgic trip through New York's Danceteria via the Sisters Of Mercy's pre-'First And Last And Always' back catalogue.
By the time 'Villains Of The Moon' drums itself into a collapse, its guitar dominated mantra slowly disseminating under the weight of pulsating reams of percussion, its probably the most ample moment to bring 'Cherish The Light Years' to a close. Evocative, perplexing and ultimately insatiable to the end, this is the record that Wesley Eisold and Cold Cave have been threatening to make for some time, and having achieved their goal quite admirably, duly raised the bar of expectation for all and sundry who dare to trail in their wake.
An astounding collection.