I'll be the first moon-eyed idealist to proclaim that music can change the world; sappy as the sentiment is, I honestly believe it. At the same time, though, I recognize that a song doesn't have to be world-altering in order to be good; sometimes all a song has to do is make you smile, or bob your head, or feel that tight warmth in your chest, and then you know, on some level you really can't explain, that what you're listening to is just fucking awesome. So what if it won't feed all the people going hungry in the Sudan? Sometimes it's okay just that it makes you feel something, that it makes you happy.
That's the way Taste, the debut EP by South Londoners The Capes, hits me. Barely 30 seconds in, and I'm smiling -- and the opener, "Francophile," which starts like a goofy, over-the-top Spinal Tap tune but transmutes into fast, overfuzzed pop with roboticized, nearly unintelligible vocals, is probably the disc's low point. From there the band lunges into "Tightly Wound," which is ferocious and catchy as all hell, the sound something like Nada Surf covering The Kinks. Distinctly British but nowhere near retro or twee, the song's tense and urgent, with nicely done, roaring call-and-response guitars. All of Taste, in fact, reminds me of Weezer, and it's mostly those guitars -- the band manages to pull off the same trick of taking straightforward, basic (yet brilliant) pop melodies and burying them beneath an avalanche of thick-sounding rock fuzz.
"Chromeless" provides a little bit of a breather, throwing in a church organ and choir to build up a delicately sweet love-gone-away song (which also happens to prominently feature some great falsetto vocals from singer/guitarist Kris Barratt) as the melancholy chords slowly spiral downward. "Regional Heats," though, simultaneously ups the pace and hits the album's highest point -- it's a burning, racing power-pop blast, easily as good as the best thing Rivers Cuomo and company have ever pulled off and somewhat reminiscent of the sadly-departed Superdrag. The drums come pounding in, followed by the '50s-sounding melody, and then the chorus grabs hold and pulls the listener up into the stratosphere; the vocals soar and the guitars split time between churning up the distorted waters and plinking along deliberately, Byrds-style, behind the curtain of noise. And then I hear a solid "thunk" sound as my jaw hits the desk.
After that, heck, the two remaining songs, "In the Morning" and "Galaxie Fraulein," might as well not count. Thankfully, both -- the first is a slower, more warbly little tune, while the second's a weird one that jumps from fast, spastic rock to keys-heavy psychedelia à la the Brian Jonestown Massacre -- are pretty decent in their own right; it's just that I keep punching the "REW" button to get back to the middle of the disc, 'cause that's the part that keeps me smiling and gets my head bobbing. Who really wants to save the world, anyway? (JH)
(Hard Soul Records -- 701 E. 3rd St., Suite #315, Los Angeles, CA. 90013; http://www.hardsoulrecords.com/; The Capes -- http://www.thecapes.co.uk/)
Bring on the Rain
It takes a little getting used to, but eventually you'll find yourself being taken somewhere deep inside Whitney Cline's voice. With her debut album, Bring on the Rain -- which is described in the press materials as a mix of folk and rock -- it's a slow process that starts off with the listener being completely uninterested in Ms. Cline. Then her music steadily becomes more and more entertaining and meaningful, although I must say I don't care much for the title track itself. It takes me back to when I was 12 years old and thought I knew absolutely everything, when as truth would have it, I didn't even come close.
I would say that the album starts off with two really strong and simple songs, and after that it becomes a love and hate relationship. Lyrically, it's a bit immature for the type of image that Cline is trying to portray. Personally, this wouldn't be an album that I would invest in. I'd rather download a few songs for occasional listening pleasure. (JG)
(Red Wagon Records; Whitney Cline -- http://www.whitneycline.com/)