The Cave Singers’ fourth release, Naomi, continues the band’s uphill battle to carve out a niche in Seattle’s indie-saturated music scene. The former grunge rock capital that birthed acts like Nirvana and Soundgarden has switched gears, boasting names like Fleet Foxes, Death Cab For Cutie, Band of Horses and The Head and the Heart.
That being said, it very much feels like The Cave Singers are trying too hard to fit within the indie genre. By contrast, the naturalness that permeates Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues is what makes it so effective and moving. The first track on Naomi, “Canopy,” showcases the band’s ability to play subtle, catchy melodies with minimum percussion, much like “Falls” off of 2011’s No Witch or “Dancing On Our Graves,” from 2007’s Invitation Songs.
In “Have To Pretend,” The Cave Singers play the exact same two chords, with no change in tempo, for the first two minutes. As if this wasn’t aggravating enough, once they end the riff in a short drum roll (normally a sign that a chorus or bridge is coming), vocalist Pete Quirk sings “too soon” in the musical interim before going back to the same progression. In a last ditch effort to create variety, Quirk unnecessarily begins to “ooh” over the seemingly sacred two chords before the song ends.
“No Tomorrow” is an outlier, even though the melody is suspiciously similar to “Helen” off of The Cave Singers’ debut, Invitation Songs. The Cave Singers are definitely at their best when they play delicately and sparingly.
And then, out of nowhere, The Cave Singers hit us with a blues song in “It’s a Crime.” Though it is independently good, its sudden inclusion on an otherwise entirely indie record reflects an overarching attempt to reconcile both genres, which, unfortunately, just doesn’t work. The centerpiece of the album, “Evergreens,” is a moving ballad that strips down the instrumentation to one guitar and a bass line. As the simplest song on Naomi, it is much like Death Cab For Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” — a very minimal song that summarizes the lyrical content of the album.
“Easy Way” is the best song on the album, a rare instance where drummer Marty Lund reminds us of his existence. Instead of an almost inaudible shuffle beat, “Easy Way” thankfully brings the drums to the forefront, resulting in a rhythmic, chord-heavy rock song.
What we have here is a disregard for the musical process. Most of the songs don’t go anywhere. The Cave Singers prove its authenticity as cavemen, beating us repetitively over the head with a club of boredom. The excessive repetition that permeates Naomi is not an artistic statement, but a symptom of crippling unoriginality.
But one thing is for sure: The Cave Singers are consistent. The band is consistent in playing the same riff for 32 measures at a time. But more importantly, it’s consistent in always making that Fleet Foxes album look so much more appealing.
Printed on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 as: Cave Singers' newest echoes tired indie song