Music

Little Cub: Still Life

Photo: Holly Whitaker

South London's Little Cub craft a debut album that elegantly addresses modern-era woes via a blanket of warm, familiar influences.


Little Cub

Still Life

Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2017-04-28
UK Release Date: 2017-04-28
Amazon
iTunes

Judging solely on the smartly arranged production, Little Cub’s debut album Still Life could have been created in a lab. One listen to “Breathing Space” instantly brings to mind some of Hot Chip’s most spirited tracks. “My Nature” has the self-lacerating lyricism of Miguel or Gary Lightbody, and on opening track “Too Much Love", even Dominic Gore’s vocals recall Ben Gibbard.

But like the best lab creations, there is an unmistakable element of humanity pulsating throughout Still Life. And while Little Cub are fairly unabashed when it comes to paying homage to their influences, their lyrics reflect an altogether original portrait of a young lad in south London who revels in late-night excesses but occasionally steps away into a poorly-lit bathroom to splash water on his face and look into the reflection of a deeply unhappy, deeply lonely person.

Still Life came to be as a result of Dominic Gore and Duncan Tootill’s collaboration after the two met in London. When Tootill returned to New York, Gore worked with Ady Acolatse on crafting the songs that would eventually become Still Life.

The band’s bio states that the kickoff track “Too Much Love” (and much of Still Life) was loosely based on the Oscar Wilde quote, “I represent all the sins that you will never have the courage to commit.” Inspiration-wise, that may be true, but most of Still Life's debauchery essentially comes from the tried and true themes of fears of intimacy, the apathy that comes with one too many familiar nights at the club, and the “Brilliant Disguise”-like paranoia of distrust in a relationship.

Still Life’s most obvious look at a world outside of its own characters is in “Death of a Football Manager”. Written about former Wales manager Gary Speed, who hanged himself in 2011, the track is propelled by a simple percussive beat and a minimal keyboard riff. “Was it for love that you crossed the wall? / Or was it grief at your own sense of failure?” Gore sings without any sign of judgment in his voice.

Still Life concludes with a remarkably steller trio of songs. “Loveless” has the most memorable chorus of the album with the ear-worm utterance of “Did we really lose our hearts?” The song is a great setup to the emotional gut-punch of “Snow”. The soft, delicate beats beautifully compliment Gore’s echoey delivery. It’s a strong enough finish to merit a repeat listen for the entire album, which is exactly what a good album should do.

Most memorable debut albums fall into two camps: instant classics or great indicators of things to come. There are times when it’s hard to distinguish Little Cub from their influences, and it’s that affliction that keeps Still Life from becoming an instant classic. But there is enough warmth to their sound and sharpness to their lyrics to indicate that -- given their talent -- a sophomore slump is not in the cards.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image