Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Album Review: Always Why by Caves (by James Jackson)

Always Why is the latest release from three-piece Bristol outfit Caves. Released in the UK on Specialist Subject, Caves embody the kind of genuine, enthusiastic punk rock the independent label is known for. Having not heard that much of Caves before writing this, I gave their discography a spin before putting down my thoughts. The band make high-energy, grungy punk music with some attentive song-writing and there's definitely more of that to be found on this new LP. This newest record is their fourth, and while the sound remains the same, I'd say this might be their most considered full-length so far.

The new LP starts off strong with the first track, “Asleep”. A brief keyboard interlude overlaid with birdsong leads right into a triumphant spiralling guitar riff that rolls right into the chorus. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, with strong, fuzzy guitar underpinning confident vocals. The lyrics too, are indicative of what's to come, with the album as a whole dealing with some often emotive subjects. In this case, confronting with the thought processes and insecurity that inevitably come when you're suddenly disillusioned with someone in a big way. The combination of quite raw-sounding instrumentals and the almost confessional tone of the vocals is something that's definitely in the same vein of Caves’ previous releases – and that's by no means a bad thing.

While the kind of songwriting on this album is a feature of the band's sound, I feel like it's backed up by some more melodic structure on this record than their previous releases. Tracks like “Wait” even put me in mind of one of their acknowledged influences, Weezer, with almost chant-like vocals reflecting on bad relationship choices, over a chugging rhythm and a light sprinkling of what I think is a glockenspiel. The song “Dangerous” from later on in the album also gave me the same vibes. There's a good balance on the tracklist between these lower tempo songs and some punchier material. Songs like “Border” start off slow and contemplative, before kicking into gear with strong drumming and layered guitar. A standout track for me is “16”, with heartfelt lyrics about teenage romantic regret delivered almost like an anthem over racing, energetic chords.

Not every song on the album hits home for me. The lyrics can be a bit insular because of their personal nature and, while the album is generally well-paced with some great instrumentation, it sometimes loses its way a bit. The track “Feather” for example builds up to an engaging chorus, then loses it's way for me about two minutes into a four-minute runtime as it kind of dwindles away into a somewhat ponderous instrumental. On the whole though, this is a great album of authentic, bombastic DIY-punk. As an album, it's an enjoyable listen the whole way through and I'll come back to it a fair few times before the summer is over. I haven't seen Caves live before but I definitely will next time the chance comes up – they've just come off a European tour and I hope it's not too long until the next one!

Stream and download Always Why here: https://caves.bandcamp.com/

Like Caves here: https://www.facebook.com/wearecaves/