I’ve been listening to the new self-titled record from New York’s Caveman for about half an hour and am, against all expectations, enjoying it quite a lot.
Caveman looks and sounds like a lot of hip bands right now: pictures of them joking around in the studio, one guy in a denim jacket and one guy in a vest and ascot, playing P-basses and hand percussion and generally doing all sorts of normal stuff that young hip guys in bands do in pictures. Leaning out of busses and stuff. “Oh great,” I thought, “another Magnetic-Fields-meets-the-Replacements-meets-Pop-Art knockoff boy band. They even played at Urban Outfitters. I feel sleepy already.”
But lo: I, a jaded and cynical Millennial with the attention span of one of Hannah Horvath’s non-Adam boyfriends, found myself intrigued by Caveman. The record opens quietly, with a sort of austere, folksy chorale sung almost entirely in Bon Iver falsetto. This is “Strange to Suffer,” and it is perhaps the best (and certainly the shortest) song on the record. The tone is set. Then drums and synthesizers enter on the second track, a sort of stock-footage midtempo bluesy number called “In the City” that is very much the response to “Strange.” By song number three, “Shut You Down,” Caveman has found its pace: personable, somewhat reserved, and melancholy. Kind of like my friend Andy after a couple of cocktails. The band’s sonic palette remains fairly static: atmospheric, full of vibrato-heavy string synths and slowly strummed guitars. Album standout “Over My Head” stands out when it slows the band down to molasses-speed, which lets the album’s actual sound (eerie, angelic, ambient) shine through.
Of course the central conflict of the record is its relationship to cliche, and to what has been done. There is a lot of creativity on Caveman, though there is little new: little threads of the Police, the Cure, and of course the Beatles shine through the fabric of Caveman. It’s not an exciting record, but it is pleasant and soothing and sincere and well-made and original. Give it a spin and relax.
4 / 5 bars