April 4, 2011

Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years

Cold Cave
Cherish The Light Years
Matador; 2011

In much the same vein as the new The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart album, it seems that Wesley Eisold has taken great strides to push the sounds of his 2009 debut record in fuller, more-grown-up directions. Admittedly, I wasn’t quite as enamored with the whole of Love Comes Close as many big-name music outlets might have been, but Cold Cave penned one of that year’s best singles with “Life Magazine,” so the guy knows his way around a few pop hooks and his source material. Thus, to my ears, what makes Cherish The Light Years such a good record is that it’s simply much more concentrated and straight-forward than its predecessor.

Whereas Love Comes Close was mostly a new-school take on the sounds and textures of Peter Murphy and Bauhaus, I would state that Cherish The Light Years is a purposeful homage to the legacy of Robert Smith and The Cure. Whether it’s the vocal affectations, the guitars that buzz and shine, or how the synths are treated so reverentially in the mix, it will be hard for this album to shake comparisons to classic gloom-pop masterpieces like Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me or Disintegration. The twist here is that I feel like Eisold has purposefully used these sounds and striven wholeheartedly for these effects, rather than wave a hand dismissively at such allusions, as if he didn’t know these records existed.

Things start off with an excellent trilogy of tunes – “The Great Pan Is Dead,” “Pacing Around The Church,” and “Confetti.” Like his forebears (not to mention contemporaries like M83 or Twin Shadow), Eisold possesses an uncanny knack for writing dark, moody tracks that ooze and slither about with a sinister sensuality: it’s the sort of music the characters in the Harry Potter series might hear at wizard clubs frequented by twenty-somethings. The production is impeccable, leaning much more towards formal pop-rock arrangements, and even the most ethereal tunes have a strong floor to them.

In one sense, the project is almost a study in diminishing returns. The material is engaging, there’s plenty of energy to the songs, and it’s a very disciplined recreation of the sort of disconsolate goth-pop music in the ‘80s that into the industrial sounds of the ‘90s (as in the progression of Depeche Mode into Nine Inch Nails). Yet, for all of the dance/electro-friendly elements present, cuts like “Underworld USA,” “Icons Of Summer,” and “Burning Sage” are a bit too one-note in my ears – the music isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as that heard on superb cuts like the album-ending “Villians Of The Moon.”

Maybe Cold Cave was a bit jealous of the attention that Robert Smith has given Crystal Castles recently. That would be one explanation for the how unbelievably spot-on Cherish The Light Years comes across – even the album title borrows same sort of solemn, slightly creepy romanticism found on vintage songs from The Cure. Whatever the case might be, I did quite enjoy the vast majority of this record, and I look forward to hearing whatever remixes might arise from the excellent foundations that Wesley Eisold and his bandmates have crafted.

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