The glittering byproduct of rebellion against the constraints of hardcore.
Hardcore, like many heavy and intense guitar-based genres, is an extremely conservative genre, with little room for expansion or experimentation. As a result, it’s not uncommon for people who play it to break away from it by making something entirely unlike it – drummer Greg Drudy of New York screamo legends Saetia helped found Interpol, while Dallas Green has found more fame with his heartfelt folk-rock as City & Colour than his band Alexisonfire ever has. In the wake of the breakup of beloved hardcore group American Nightmare, Wesley Eisold continued making aggressive noise with his other project Some Girls, but he also created Cold Cave to explore his synth-loving side and a decade ago, released Love Comes Close, perhaps Eisold’s most addicting record to date.
Those going in cold might not see the addictive qualities at first: Opener “Cebe and Me” feels like such a fake-out after listening to the rest of the album. A monotonous drum beat with fuzzed-out beats runs through it combined with Caralee McElroy’s incomprehensible vocals, you’d be forgiven if you heard it and tuned out. Those that turn back during “Cebe” are making a bold mistake, though, as just one song later, “Love Comes Close” appears seemingly with the intention of rewarding those that made it through that opening slog with one of the most purely catchy – and underrated – songs of the last 15 years. Eisold’s vampiric voice comes in and everything feels good, despite the bleakness of the lyrics: “Love comes close/ But chooses to spare me/ Death comes close/ But ceases to take me.” It’s almost unfair that they put “Love Comes Close” here, as it means that every single song after it has to struggle – and ultimately fail – to be as good as this one (which may be true of every song Eisold has made under the Cold Cave moniker since).
That failure isn’t a mark of shoddy work on Love Comes Close, but rather illustrates how damn good that one song really is – especially because the remainder of the album does come close to capturing the essence of that one. The album’s attitude is decidedly goth, but these songs are unfairly fun. From the minimalistic shoutalong “The Trees Grew Emotions and Died” to borderline club banger “I.C.D.K.” (not an acronym, but a clever abbreviation for “I see decay”), Cold Cave seem content to make the kind of icy, synth-heavy darkwave that would make render even Robert Smith unable to resist dancing along. Eisold’s lyrics are gloomy as hell – it’s hard to imagine yourself wanting to dance while merely reading lines like the McElroy-delivered “You miss the disco lights/ It’s all pleather now/ A synthetic world without end/ Sheds a tear of plastic deception,” but “Youth and Lust” is determined to make it so – but even the weakest songs of Love Comes Close (“Cebe and Me” aside) seem committed to you dancing the gloom away.
There are still a small handful of misses here. The sluggish (and arguably misogynistic) “Heaven Was Full” gets lost in its own menacing atmosphere and forgets to enjoy the act of being overdramatically goth, which means a line like “Heaven was full so I went down with you” ends up falling flatter than you’d imagine. Then there’s the brief “Hello Rats,” which feels like it’s 80% of the way towards being awesome, but never really goes anywhere in its sub-two-minute runtime. But then “Hello Rats” transitions into “Youth and Lust,” a song effortlessly cool enough that you can imagine it being on an Italians Do It Better After Dark compilation. Those duds still do little to drag down the album, though, and for every “Hello Rats,” there’s a “Life Magazine” or “Double Lives in Single Bed” – or, yes, “Love Comes Close” – to balance it out and keep you going. Love Comes Close is ultimately not perfect, but as the glittering byproduct of rebellion against the constraints of hardcore, Eisold knocked it out of the park.