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Cold Cave
Love Comes Close Ben Graham , November 5th, 2009 08:15

The nights are drawing in, and Cold Cave are here for you. Essentially the project of punk veteran and "revered lyricist/poet" (according to Pitchfork) Wesley Eisold, theirs is a world of hard, enclosed edges and sunglasses worn after dark; of feelings expressed in cryptic verse in private notebooks, with only averted gazes and mumbled shrugs for the people that matter in your life. A world of hard electronic beats and anthemic, minor-key melodies, denoting a kind of sepulchral, self-important sentimentality; a way to disengage while appearing to open up, a hard carapace that simultaneously reveals and protects the emotional vulnerability within, and an expression of emotional vulnerability that just leads back to a hard, blank, unyielding core.

This is niche music: it's exactly the kind of darkwave electro that's been a staple of underground Goth clubs for about the last twenty years, with none of the innovations or sugar-coating normally required for crossover potential. It breaks no new ground, and in fact makes a point of going back over some very well-trodden paths, while the lyrics consist of the kind of florid, existential emo posturing that really shouldn't say anything about life to anyone over the age of compulsory education- all of which makes it hard to understand why they're being taken seriously and so widely celebrated by the overground press. One can only assume there's a need for a darker, edgier equivalent to the kind of bright, sharp, 80s-eighties-influenced electro-pop currently dominating daytime radio, and that Cold Cave happen to fit the bill. Nor can their rise be hindered by the fact that the Ian Curtis death cult has now far eclipsed such lightweight pretenders as Morrison, Hendrix and Cobain, leading to widespread demand for cheap and accessible Joy Division substitutes.

The title track, for instance, is as spare and beautiful as winter trees, with a mournfully catchy chorus. But it's so blatant a New Order / Joy Division rip-off that it could easily be some early bedroom demo of 'Bizarre Love Triangle' with the vocal track of 'Atmosphere' laid over the top: the Philadelphia-based Eisold's English-accented Ian Curtis impression is so sincere it's embarrassing. Caralee McElroy sings on the pleasingly muscular 'Life Magazine,' but 'The Laurels of Erotomania' is a sub-Fischerspooner minimalist electro groove, full of dark ambience but ultimately throwaway.

The sinister, stalking epic that is 'Heaven Was Full' recalls Merciful Release signings James Ray's Gangwar: synth arpeggios descend remorselessly as Wes sonorously intones "all the girls tying ropes to tall trees, I was bored so I hung there with you… I will pity you till you're pretty…" 'Hello Rats' is pure late adolescent angst, distilled into less than two minutes: "you're in bed with a future ex-girlfriend, telling lies about emotions or something." The music is as doom-laden as you'd expect, the sound of a young man and his Casio, alone after midnight, headphones on so as not to wake his parents in the next room. At least closer 'I.C.D.K.' (geddit?) reveals a certain self-deprecating sense of humour: "I don't know why I keep my nose in the dead dirt, just because I stepped on a rake once, trying to smell the infinite field of sunflower." This elegiac electro gem also has the strongest riff of the entire album.

There are certainly camp thrills and melancholy highs to be had from Love Comes Close, but don't be fooled into taking it too seriously. There's nothing innovative or important here, nothing to push the form forward. Me, I honestly quite like it; but then, I've been told I have an emotional age of about fourteen. And I still like to wear dark glasses, even on the cloudiest days.