In a Cave
In my tight little clique in high school, our separating boundary from the flood of human detritus around us was our earnest devotion to certain bands. Much time and notebook margin space was spent on concocting our own definitive top 5 bands, each one was a finger forming a fist of rebellion For the record: my fist was comprised of Bauhaus, The Smiths, Thomas Dolby, Peter Gabriel and Depeche Mode. Especially Depeche Mode. Kind of a wussy fist, I know, but it should be noted that we were out of the reach of punk for the most part, or these answers would've been very different. Our pool was pretty communal, but we each had a band that was ours, like Scott was a U2 and R.E.M. specialist (remember, this was the mid 80's, when those two were off-the beaten path rather than forming it), whereas Duke had done graduate studies in Oingo Boingo. I wouldn't dream of trying justfy my Depeche Mode-ivations now, but they were very real at the time. The real odd-man out was my friend Kevin that had a bunch of New Wave wild cards in his list, namely A Flock of Seagulls, The Comsat Angels, Visage and his big gun Real Life - Aussie one-off that had a hit with "Send Me An Angel" and then disappeared. He was duly mocked, even by us, for his choices, but he was steadfast in his resolve proving against adversity his love to be more true and pure than our own clique management techniques. I don't know what happened to Kevin, but I secretly hope he's still driving that enormous car he had, bopping to the Real Life tape permanently attached to his dashboard.
This particular trip down memory lane was brought to you courtesy of DC's French Toast. Particularly, the second track "Pattern" off their new CD In a Cave. Its like future archaeologists found Kevin's decayed car in one of the sugar cane fields surrounding his house, carefully brought the contents of the tape deck back to the labs at Dischord Headquarters to interpret the hieroglyphics contained therein and transmit it to the People. I don't want to portray this as some nostalgiast novelty act, its just that they capture that peculiar strain of kick-ass I haven't heard since way back when. That hi-hat syncopation, the synth strains, that rhythm guitar brings it all back.
The rest of the album happens to kick-ass as well. The opening track "Float Away" chimes the door off its hinges like a cross between The Pilmsouls and SWAT invasion team. "New Dub" lives up to its name, investigating the dub format of icebergs of bass and cave-echoes of snare without sounding like a generic Reggae setup. "Lion's Den" is the new wave rocker hero of the bunch. I defy you to not at least mentally pogo and do air-punches while listening to this.
The track "Insane" is the real thesis statement for this album, its snaky guitar loops and deceptively funky bass groove and softly delivered vocals underscore how a great New Wave song can inject itself in your head. "Nobody Knows" closes out the album with sustained piano and ghostly harmonics, just like my schoolboy heroes the Mode did on their best albums. I don't know how much of the resemblance is manufactured here, but this is no 80's retro project - instead a living breathing album that reminds me that maybe the favored flavors of my youth were not so disposable after all.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
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