Cool Rules: Cold Cave Revives The Specter of Synthpop
It’s more than a mere ‘80s revival at this point: the pulsing beat and almost Afropop-like rhythm guitar of the title track of Cold Cave’s newly reissued full-length, Love Comes Close (Matador). Are you listening to a great, new track by New Order, returned to its old form, rather than a coolly hot Iladelphia/NYC threesome? Like La Roux, Glass Candy and umpteen Yazoo and Human League acolytes, the group hews that closely to the chilly mechanics of Reagan-era pop. Frankly faux, sharply minimal keys are intertwined in an icy clinch with ennui-laden, art-damaged vocals.
But the musicians behind Cold Cave are more than mere replicants, though the frozen facade of the music may seem forbidding to some. The trio injects a quirky, historicized sense of eccentricity to its fanboy-ish attention to detail: Cold Cave is besotted with Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Kraftwerk, but its members are also true enough to their own voices to intersperse twittering bleeps and squeaking bird tweets amid the driving motorik beat of “The Laurels of Erotomania.” Displaying a pointed sense of humor, Wesley Eisold purrs, “You will learn to love me / I don’t know why / We will make history / I don’t know why,” amid a chirping nest of bleating baby electronics -- he’s the easily programmable lover imprinting to a hospital-bound heartbreaker like a baby duck to a mother bird, bonding against reason and will.
Tunes like the brisk “Youth and Lust” (“Cold sheets and mattress stains / there’s no telling you to want me too,” declares Eisold) and the hallucinatory “Heaven Was Full” reflect not only a music landscape increasingly mediated via digital technology but a time when perfect pop kept its face in place and its art school credentials in full view. And thanks to Eisold, who embraced a more hardcore punk approach in American Nightmare and Some Girls, and Caralee McElroy, ex- of Xiu Xiu, and Dominick Fernow of experimental noise project Prurient, Cold Cave is adding smarts to the new machine.
Cold Cave performs Thursday, Dec. 3, 9 p.m., at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F. Former Ghosts and Veil Veil Vanish open. $10. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com.