Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cave In - Planets of Old (Hydra Head, 2009)

I'm in the minority of Cave In fans that isn't happy about the no-turning-back point they reached with Jupiter (Intronaut's Sacha Dunable clearly disagrees with me). While I appreciate the band's bravery in blasting off into the space rock stratosphere, Cave In were never as masterful with their melodic songcraft as they were with the burly post-hardcore of Until Your Heart Stops. Something about Steve Brodsky's glottal singing tone always struck me as green, like the rest of the band had grown up but he was still a precocious teenager, finding his voice. I preferred the post-breakup albums from Cave In members (reviewed here and here) that didn't involve him. 

All the same, few bands in any genre are as restlessly creative as Cave In, and I love their horizon-searching even when I don't love their songs. Hence my excitement at their un-disbandment in April, and my curiosity about the Planets of Old 12", their first new release in nearly four years. The four-track EP continues along the path of the band's omni-directional last album Perfect Pitch Black (reviewed here). It swirls together bottom-feeding metal jams, jetpack rock 'n roll and raging hardcore. Each track is a short visit to a planet they've already inhabited. Get the title?

"Cayman Tongue" is the most vicious slab of heavy Cave In have recorded since Until Your Heart Stops, and "Red Trail" pulls of some totally boss, Converge-style hahd-coah. The magnetic guitar riffs on the other two tracks are hampered by some weak-ass vocal melodies and over-articulation from Brodsky -- Jeremy Enigk's preciousness comes to mind on "Retina Sees Rewind," while diphthongs turn into irritating nasal arcs on "Air Escapes." None of Planets of Old alters my feelings about Cave In, but the EP at least confirms that they've stood their ground since they disbanded. Which actually makes this the first Cave In release that hasn't pushed their sound, if only gently. I'll chalk that one up to the three-and-a-half year time in the penalty box, and patiently wait for a new full-length. 


gloriousfindings said...

some of us find Cave In occasionally flawed, others of us find Tom Waits occasionally flawed. To each his own!

proto said...

I love Cave-In. The band grew so much, from their hardcore beginnings, to the incredible Jupiter, and then with Antenna they were at the top of modern rock music. Yes there were a couple of throwaway pop songs, but the latter half of that album was truly astounding.

Then I was disappointed with Perfect Pitch Black, because it sounded quite derivative. It was Cave-In trying to sound like "Cave-In" and it didn't work. The songs were just not there. Seems like they spent more time on the guitar sound than on writing good melodies.

Now these 4 songs strike me the same way. Perhaps they are having fun playing these riffs (I hope they are!) but it's not any fun to listen to.

They should wrap up Cave-In and move on. The funny thing about them is that, even though Brodsky is kind of amateurish and inconsistent, I think he was responsible for their best material, and he was truly great on Antenna. But now, he seems totally unable to write a good song or melody?? I don't get it.