Listening to Wesley Eisold sing Cold Cave songs can sometimes feel like watching an emo kid giving it his all at a New Order karaoke night. The guitar line on “Confetti” sounds to be straight out of New Order’s mid-‘80s period. Bernard Sumner had that amateur, yet effective, guitar style down pat. Even the backing vocals on this particular track bring New Order to mind. They sound like a gentle choir giving Eisold moral support.
However, Sumner is a most dispassionate lead singer. He sings well, yet he never seems to break a sweat. Not so with Eisold. He’s a little like David Bowie, in that when his voice breaks during a particularly emotional passage, it’s actually a lovely thing. Even so, Eisold isn’t nearly as suave as Bowie is. You sometimes suspect that that cracked actor is, well, just acting. Eisold, as with all emo singers, lays it all out on the line. Whenever he sings, he makes the weekend warrior karaoke crowd a little nervous. They’re just there to be pretend rock stars; he’s out to spill his guts.
It’s also unusual to hear an ‘80s New Wave dance beat, like the kind used for “Underworld USA,” put with such serious lyrics. On it, Eisold sings about carrying his cross, the meek inheriting the Earth and the role of being a “tender missionary” in the American underground. This is deep spiritual/political stuff. If you stripped away the melody of the song, its rhythm is not all that different from Madonna’s “Into The Groove.” Yet something tells me Eisold is doing more than merely desperately seeking Susan.
Whodathunk we’d be nostalgic for New Order already? Nevertheless, that band’s alternative dance approach is all over Cherish The Light Years. It’s impossible to think of anybody else while “Icons Of Summer” plays out. The way unusual percussive elements are thrown into the mix to keep the listener’s attention is an obvious old New Order trick.
“Alchemy And You” takes the concept of alchemy seriously. It’s an odd mixture of sounds, indeed. The track is as much guitar driven as anything. It also features ska horn parts. Although these elements usually suggest soul music, Cold Cave has created a harsh track song, instead. Eishold sounds like Ian McCulloch leading Echo & the Bunnymen, and begging us to come to his rescue from the killing moon and spare him the cutter.
Cold Cave takes only a few detours from dance music during this project. One such curveball is “Burning Sage,” which — although it percolates slightly — is very much a musical dirge. The keyboard part is a low, burbling groove that is augmented by splashing percussion parts. Cold Cave, for better or worse, is karaoke for the desperate, cool and confused.