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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
The Cave Singers
Invitation Songs

Rating: 7/10 ?

October 3, 2007
Punk is like a gateway genre; it can lead to rap (Beastie Boys), dance (Rapture), noise (Parts & Labor), and sultry singer-songwriter (Neko Case) types, not to mention all sorts of ominous experimental shit (Liars). Now, with Seattle's Cave Singers, punk is the vehicle straight to... folk? The resumes of the newly formed rock dwellers speak for themselves: singer Pete Quirk spent time in Seattle's Hint Hint, drummer Marty Lund in Cobra High, and guitarist Derek Fudesco played in Pretty Girls Make Graves and Murder City Devils.

Backgrounds aside, a punk/folk hybrid does appear to be the approach taken by the trio on their debut album, Invitation Songs. Although the Violent Femmes were narrowing the acoustic definitions years ago, it was Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance that validated the sentiment of bluesman Big Bill Broonzy: "All music is folk music." That statement may quite possibly be true, since if one strips down even the grungiest music to its acoustic core, it always sounds quite folky. For the viability of a transition in the opposite direction, see Bob Dylan, plugged in at The 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Invitation Songs has a moody and sparse ambience, and the cover photo of a masked trio hugging in a meadow only adds to its haunting feeling. (The back cover, on the other hand, is a straight-up tribute to the beautifully straight-up records of yore, where each song is neatly listed with its author and playing time). "Seeds of Light" sets the stage from the album's opening plucks: although these Cave Singers may have found fulfillment in folk, they are not the freak folkers we've been hearing so much about as of late. The Cave Singers' methods are clearer and less complicated than say, Joanna Newsom or Sufjan Stevens. If there is any relation to the current crop of hootenanny punks it would be to Devendra Banhart, simply in terms of the genteel essence that blows through this album like a stick of patchouli incense.

"Helen" and "Dancing on Our Graves" are two tracks notable for their minor/major modulations and slick use of Fudesco's bass pedals. "Cold Eye" would fit right in on FM radio circa 1977; it perfectly brings to mind Fleetwood Mac, who the band confess - without an ounce of guilty pleasure - is one of their favorites. The easy-going tambourine shakes make it effortless for the listener to picture Stevie Nicks in all her flowing glory. Quirk's nasally, androgynous voice (think Blind Melon's much-missed Shannon Hoon) lends Invitation Songs a tender quality that simultaneously makes the songs pleasing and haunting.

Album acme "Bricks of Our Home" brings it all home, and illustrates what this beguiling band is all about. If folk music is having a 21st century resurgence vis--vis the freaks, Cave Singers just want to make really simple, quietly engaging music that's not trying to re-define any genre. On Invitation Songs they summon up lost lovers, Civil War marches, abandoned railway cars and chain-gang musings; I'm sure that if he didn't pass on over fifty years ago, Big Bill would be proud.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro



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