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Cold Showers
Matter Of Choice Olivia Cheves , August 12th, 2015 11:12

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Imagine that there was some kind of karaoke night where all those reverent pioneers of post-punk, synthpop, new wave and coldwave could get together for a knees-up and a big old singalong. Imagine David Thomas backed by The Units giving 'Enola Gay' a going over, Wire paying homage to Bauhaus, and Bernard Sumner standing by the bar doing the white man shuffle to the cast of No New York hammering out their best Ultravox impressions. Depeche Mode performing a triumphant delivery of The Birthday Party's 'Nick The Stripper', only to be outshone by a resplendent Roxy Music serving up an incendiary rendition from Hex Enduction Hour. It would be a glorious evening; rousing, indulgent and electrifyingly unhinged.

Listening to Cold Showers' latest construction grants a taste of just such an experience. The LA post-punk acolytes have been putting out a steady stream of records ever since their inception in 2010, with releases on Mexican Summer, Art Fag, and current label Dais drawing frequent comparisons with Joy Division, Interpol and Echo and The Bunnymen. Their debut LP, Love And Regret, saw the full swell of Factory Records-influenced punk that this quintet execute so skilfully, flitting adroitly from no-wave to garage rock in a matter of bars. Follow-up album Matter Of Choice sees the Angelenos taking a turn towards more synth-heavy productions, resulting in a systematically frenzied compendium of intense and erratic dirges borne along on a freight of bucking percussion.

Opener 'She Hangs On' treads with solemn steps through a mire of synthesised sound, the sultry menace of Jonathon Weinburg's vocals murmuring "don't fear the ledge", like the malign enticements of the Lemures. Encouraged by Brian Davila's liberated keys, Weinburg's voice has reeled into a grey area somewhere between Ian Curtis and Dave Gahan, an effect that is categorically glorious. There's an invigorating lurch as the album erupts into the gothic techno of 'Only Human', followed by a dizzying ascent into 'Plantlife', a maelstrom of skin-itchingly epicurean powerpop. The album has an undeniable darkness to it, which seeps into and saturates even its brightest moments. Whilst most tracks open on a sinister drone, they often give way to a kind of deranged elation, like the convulsive laughter of a lunatic, but it's this thrill of volatility that makes for such an engaging sonic experience.

'Crowds' and 'Ceasefire', both of which see rocketing shoegaze throw down in a barbed-wire death match against murky freakbeat, sit astride 'Whatever You Want', a song that, though utterly uplifting, feels, for the most part, like an interminable hike towards an indefinite precipice. The uniform drums and marching bass do little to keep your head straight as mounting synths threaten to derail the rise. The escarpment never appears; the music simply continues on its euphoric climb, leaving you in the mountainous heights of its final notes. 'Undone', is consequently a slight comedown by comparison. A slimmer sound at a higher tempo marks a reversion back to the more habitual style of post-punk found on their debut. Album encore, 'Crowds (Redux)', is nonetheless a much welcomed postscript, a tranquil and lethargic coda after this night of spent amongst enraptured punk and carousing synths. It's a moment of hush for an overstimulated mind, and it asks only that you bask in its echoes.

It's unquestionably a strong second outing for Cold Showers. A deviation from conventional post-punk heaviness has brought them into more uncertain territory, but the gamble has paid off as Matter Of Choice brings euphoric sonic revelry juxtaposed against elegiac lyricism to form what is a truly eloquent and absorbing work.

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