Welcome back folks! Not only have we returned with more #content over here, but we are also back to something of the regularly scheduled Rainbows programming. After a brief but thought provoking sojourn into the world of harsh noise, we return with something that is decidedly much less harsh and noisy, but no less evocative and artistic, in every sense of the word. Synthpop/post-punk darlings Cold Cave seem poised to be the epitome of the modern-day resurgence of old-school cool, and on Fate in Seven Lessons, they show off a little bit of everything they bring to the table.
Formed in 2007, Cold Cave have been rocking an impressively sizable discography, thanks in no small part to the prolificness and artistic sensibilities of founder, frontperson and multi-disciplinary artist Wes Eisold, who guides the band in song and in image. It’s one thing to have that intrinsic sense of artistry, but Cold Cave have been recognized and hailed for it critically, so much so that they have been invited to perform at world-class venues like the Getty Museum and the Guggenheim, arguably the Wacken Open Air of art-pop venues, as well as touring with the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Nine Inch Nails. Truly this kind of success is not taken lightly by the duo of Eisold and multi-instrumentalist Amy Lee (different Amy Lee), and they never seem to be content to rest on their laurels. Instead, on Lessons, they choose to push themselves and release what they describe as their heaviest and most romantic release yet. Lessons really is all that and more, with the band incorporating a plethora of sounds and textures from in and around the genre and their own past, forming something that both looks back and pushes forward at the same time.
Lessons is a post-punk workout, and one of the most fun things about listening to it is the way that every song highlights both a different set of classic, timeless styles within the genre and a different piece of Cold Cave’s history. Billed as both “brooding” and “sexy,” the characteristics that pull everything together is Eisold’s sultry croon and Lee’s emotional synth work. The songs themselves range from groove laden, somber romps like “Prayer From Nowhere” and “Happy Birthday, Dark Star” to light and poppy dance anthems such as “Night Light” and “Promised Land.” Despite them each being unique in terms of their individual sounds, they all share the same qualities that make them instantly appealing to me: they are catchy as all hell, they are emotionally deep and laden with melody and mood, and they capture the intangibles that make post-punk a genre that I absolutely adore. The sounds and the instrumentation all come together to create a feeling that, while being mostly gloomy and a little morose at times, still feels like putting on a pair of sweatpants right out of the dryer: warm, comforting, familiar and something you can sink deep into. The synth work and guitars are delicate and melodic, the vocals are deep and brooding but still carry weight and poetry, and the hooks dig in with barbs. It’s exactly what I want in a post-punk record, and while I don’t think it pushes the envelope as much as Cold Cave would want it to, I don’t think it has to. I think it just has to tick all those boxes, and it does that incredibly successfully.
Cold Cave certainly are a band that does not shy away from artistry in all its forms, and Fate in Seven Lessons shows them at the top of their game. The seven tracks are all clinics in how to write catchy, well thought out pop songs that hit a huge wave of nostalgia without dwelling in it. There is something both classic and perennial about the songs here, and it’s definitely worth a shot if you want something that instantly sparks joy.