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Cave Singers

by Mike Hotter on April 27, 2011

There’s a lot of that classic Pacific Northwestern lonesomeness in the Cave Singers’ music. It’s in both the gray and depressive outlook of most of singer Peter Quirk’s lyrics, and the sound, which evinces an obvious familiarity with classic rock, leavened with that obligatory but essential strain of postpunk discontent. For Seattleites, the Cave Singers are mostly gentle in their manner—there are no grunge meltdowns here, though hints of garage rock (all hail the Sonics!) do peek through from time to time (especially on the propulsive “Black Leaf” and album closer “No Prosecution if We Bail”).

What sets the band apart from most of their indie folk brethren is the singing of Quirk (a scratchy-voiced imp who seems about ready to either jump out of his skin or scratch it off) and the guitar playing of Derek Fudesco (formerly of Pretty Girls Make Graves), whose acoustic riffs have a bluesy sturdiness that hearken back to vintage Page and Richards. Another big plus is that rhythm is also important to these guys—or at least to their producer, Randall Dunn, who usually makes his bread and butter manning the board for heavier acts like Black Mountain and Sunn O))). The sultry groove of “Falls” brings pleasant memories of Morphine to mind. Quirk’s mumbling and repeated yeah-yeah-yeah’s almost derail the tune, but things are salvaged by the inclusion of some gospel-ish keys and background vocals about halfway through the tune. (Good save, Randall.)

With so many recent indie releases making grand pronouncements about cosmic affairs, I love how refreshingly prosaic everything is on this record. On “Haller Lake,” Quirk laments about washing dishes and being able to bring his girlfriend to a “nice restaurant.” One of his choicest observations on the sensually hypnotic “Faze Wave” is “I saw you at the supermarket/Shopping for a mind.” Sometimes he ventures boldly, if perhaps unwisely, into John Mellencamp territory, with repeated references to car keys and old shacks.

In a subtle and almost subliminal way, the Cave Singers seem to be pointing out that such classic Americana images, secluded from foreign unrest and ecological disaster, are now tinged, if not laden, with guilt. On the final song, the aforementioned “No Prosecution if We Bail,” Quirk feels that “history’s lying on my bed again,” so he fantasizes about taking his love “down to New Zealand, cross Australia/To this place that I wanted” before cutting himself off at the end of the song with a stifled “No!” So the Cave Singers find solace in one of the last guilt-free American pleasures—rocking out.