Music

Caveman: Caveman

Putting that whole "sophomore slump" idea to bed, Caveman have managed to outdo themselves by crafting an engrossing, catchy album, worthy of a larger audience.


Caveman

Caveman

Label: Fat Possum
US Release Date: 2013-04-02
Uk Release Date: 2013-04-02
Amazon
iTunes

Though it’s feasible to suggest that Caveman singer Matthew Iwanusa sounds like the lovechild of James Mercer (The Shins) and Band of Horses’ Ben Birdwell (maybe a stretch), I’d counter that that’s both impossible and somewhat irrelevant, given the collective musical differences between the bands. No, Iwanusa and by extension, Caveman, are a much more deliberate and clever group -- able to draw from a wealth of influences and then quite tactfully, instill their own musical template for use and reuse. Here, on their second full-length release, the self-titled Caveman LP, the guys go to great lengths to maintain this "prototype" -- to control their form -- to replenish motifs until the listener is lulled into some kind of meditative reverie. In that respect, Caveman nearly amounts to concept record status, only one that features implied moods and atmosphere over direct themes.

From the faux-tribal, cyclical rhythm section and the all-encompassing blankets of synth, to the meaty bass and the distantly shimmering guitars. It’s a sound-blend can aurally captivate -- inspiring able juxtapositions of warmth, against airy backgrounds of dark, cold isolation. The band also does well by letting their singer shine atop the compacted arrangements, propelling their most appealing asset to the forefront. Indeed, Iwanusa’s engaging vocal (dipped in reverb for extra smoothness) goes a long way to dignify the band’s efforts here; potentially abetting the separation of Caveman from the vast others in the American-indie-band swarm. No easy task these days. Of course, if the songs were shit, nobody would care. Fortunately, there are a few undeniable gems hidden within this decidedly competent, yet fairly regimented track listing before us.

Making a sly entrance with the floating (and later reprising) "Strange to Suffer" motif, the quintet then wisely enter into the Shins inspired, "In the City" -- a tune that does what "A Country’s King of Dreams" did for their debut album, Coco Beware, only better. And, well it does it bigger too -- flaunting the band’s interest in trading room-sized, coziness, for an even bigger and brighter, all-encompassing sense of atmosphere. True to their task then, each track follows suit, melding individual components into a wash of echoing, melodic statements that occasionally feel like meandering quests (the plodding, "Where’s The Time") -- though hardly, if ever, unpleasant.

Album highlight, "Over My Head", drops from space around the midway point and lays swift claim to the LP’s most densely layered and similarly, its most poignant moment. Like a much less weird, modern-indie version of Pink Floyd, "Over My Head" is totally arresting, both melodically and instrumentally -- creating a virtual synth-cocoon (tinged with sadness) that may or may not cause spontaneous flotation. Elsewhere, Caveman delves into ‘80s U2 territory with the Edge-like guitar strums of "Pricey" (except around two minutes when it totally becomes a Cure song) and shows a refreshing sense of release (relatively speaking) on "Never Want to Know" -- Caveman’s own quasi-response for more Bends-era Radiohead.

Putting that whole "'sophomore slump" idea to bed, Caveman have managed to outdo themselves by crafting an engrossing, catchy album that’s worthy of a respectably larger audience. That it comes off a bit too orchestrated and muted around the edges isn’t a large criticism, but it sure would be interesting to hear the band let loose for a change. They’ve got the songs and definitely the singer. Maybe next time -- for now, this is still a trip worth taking.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.