A singles comp with no single
Twenty-one minutes, 14 songs, four guys and maybe a couple hundred dollars in production expenses. Yup, it’s lo-fi, sounds-like-the-1980s time again at Slumberland Records, in this instance on the shoulders of Brooklyn-based, Wire-and-early-Clash referencing, oddly-capitalized caUSE co-MOTION.
It’s Time collects all the singles to date from this road-hardened pop-punk band, every one of them full of switchblade sharp guitars, pogo drum and bass and echo-cased, romantic vocals. It’s a fun sound, especially if you came of musical age during the Carter years. It carries all the angsty scramble of post-punk, all the ache and hurt of reverbed Britpop. And yet, listen to this album two, three, ten times, and you’re still where you started: enjoying the ride but unable to distinguish between songs. It’s a paradox. An album constructed entirely of singles, there is no clear, catchy, ear-wormy category-killer.
Consider, for example, “Which Way Is Up?”, the cut that the bloggers are all linking. It’s fine, full of straight-up-and-down scrambles, frantic cymbal-clanked beats, a slouching, slurring verse and a repeated, almost-anthemic refrain of “Which way is up? Cos I’m feeling so down.” Yet weirdly, the band nails the details of sloppy late ‘80s punk, right down to the side-of-the-mouth delivery, but misses the soul. The cut melts into essentially identical “Falling Again” -– and fair enough, Rhys Chatham once found the Ramones’ songs so indistinguishable that he assumed their show was one song with variations -– but this band never hits on a song good enough to bear repeating.
caUSE co-MOTION seems to be another one of those bait-and-switch groups that Slumberland has been flogging lately –- Crystal Stilts and the Lodger are others –- that make their case by reminding people of other bands. But Crystal Stilts isn’t the Jesus and Mary Chain or Felt or Velvet Underground, and the Lodger isn’t Orange Juice, and caUSE co-MOTION isn’t Wire or Television Personalities. It’s Time is fun but disposable, without a single cut that’ll make you back it up and hit replay. If you’re old enough, it’ll make you feel good, in the same way that Gilligan’s Island re-runs or Cap’n Crunch cereal do, but don’t mistake nostalgia for musical excitement.