Make It Neu!
This Chicago outfit gets up to some fascinating playfulness on this, the group’s third full-length. Opening with the freewheeling, feathery fist-in-the-face “WUJ”, a track driven by a propulsive throb that calls to mind Hawkwind and Neu!, the five-song platter never relents in its stunning and ceaseless need to drive listeners somewhere, anywhere.
Much credit has to be given to the rhythm section of Dan Browning (bass) and Rex McMurry (drums) who offer those driving elements with the thankless consistency of a trusty washing machine. However, the droning keyboard layering of Rotten Milk (doubtless his birth name) and the super psychic guitar playing and organ ooze of Cooper Crain don’t hurt things either. It really comes down to that aforementioned playfulness, the sense of humour that drove Krautrock masters Can and even the self-mythologizing Robert Fripp, who can still teach us a thing or two about what it means to arch and wiggle one’s musical eyebrows every now and again.
That humour is largely at the core of the 14-minute—need it be said?—epic “This Is the Best”, in which the band gently tests the listener’s patience by stretching sonic repetition to its logical extension, nigh on the breaking point. But there’s something about the way these lads do it, something about the shouts and yells and childlike nature of the track that makes it impossible to walk away from. Those same factors make “Adam Roberts”, with its decidedly disco/world vibe, all the richer for its intelligence and ability to thrust the listener into the center of a future populated by a music that is unfettered by anything that approaches the familiar.
If there’s anything here that smacks of standard post rock fare it is perhaps the opening measures of “On the Rise”, but even those familiar feelings are rendered unfamiliar by Crain’s ridiculously imaginative guitar figures and the trusty Browning/McMurry axis. (Also, where some groups are comfortable remaining silent, allowing the chiming guitars and pounding drums to do the talking, these lads offer some hypnotic chanting that only adds to the Pow! Zing! of the whole bleeding track.)
Any of band of this ilk is really only as good as its epic numbers and thus it’s appropriate that the album culminates in the blunt bashing of “OJ”, with its ‘60s-inflected organ and a sonic insistence that’s more relentless than a bear in heat. And with that the whole record is over what seems like far, far too soon. (At 40 minutes, Neverendless can hardly be called a sliver of a record.)
However, this is ultimately a record built and driven by a sense of awe, a sense of wonder and an inventiveness that should keep this quartet running for a long, long time. It’s not hard to imagine that CAVE will soon ascend to the majestic heights of respect of fellow Chicagoans the Sea and Cake and Tortoise. CAVE certainly isn’t doing the same thing as those bands, but it’s equally imaginative and equally thoughtful and for that alone it’s certain that this is a band worth noting. Don’t miss this.
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// Notes from the Road
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