In that shadowy realm of music criticism, things can sneak up on you. Some bands (and albums) walk right through the front door and hit you over the head with how absolutely, stunningly brilliant they are, but then there are others that sneak in the back and hang out in your living room, watching TV and raiding your liquor cabinet ‘til you happen to notice they’re in there. I have a feeling The Caribbean are just that sort of band, the kind who don’t really hit you all at once, who take a little while to get moving. And that somewhat explains my feelings towards their debut EP—while it’s good, it’s not great...at least, not yet.
There’s a whole lot of promise here, to be sure. “Edge Patrol” kicks things off on a high note most bands can only hope of ever achieving, starting like an outtake from Under the Bushes, Under the Stars and quickly transmuting into a lounge-flavored pop band; think Holiday (or maybe Trembling Blue Stars) covering Guided by Voices, and you’ve got the right idea. The bad part? Well, it’s barely a minute long, and fades out before it has time to really dig in and get to where it’s going. The music heads downhill a bit from there, continuing in the same vein (kinda mellow indie-pop) and throwing a samba beat on the glibly self-referencing “Heaven Knows”, which hits one of my music-geek nerves when it starts talking about rhyming a word just so it can finish a lyric.
“Toronto Make-Believe”, a mostly keys-and-drums affair that harks back to Cotton Mather’s “Private Ruth” with its over-distorted studio experimentation, makes up for it, though. After that, “Never the Good Fireman” almost apes Radiohead, complete with a faux-British accent, and “Impure” sounds closest to fellow DC-dwellers Eggs, but doesn’t quite match that level of weirdness/genius. The latter is only okay most of the way through, but gets better at the end, when it dissolves in a slow-building wash of static-y noise, echoed drums, and steady, shimmering guitars.
Overall, the songs are well-done nonsensical pop, but the band occasionally misses a step or three, both vocally and musically—the EP’s closer, “Soundproofing Makes a Practice Space”, takes this to an extreme and makes it seem intentional, swaying along drunkenly ‘til it comes apart at the end. And somehow, that fall to the floor feels pretty good, and makes me want to listen again.