Album Review: Caves – “Homeward Bound”

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Caves are a fairly new band from Bristol, UK, and are the latest in the decades-long line of hard-working, great-sounding DIY-punk bands hailing from that city. The three-piece are set to release their debut full-length, “Homeward Bound,” on August 2nd (or August 1st in the UK) via Specialist Subject Records. Here’s your Dying Scene look…

The intro track to “Homeward Bound,” cleverly titled “Intro,” has melodic post-hardcore overtones, and those influences give their otherwise straight-ahead, no-frills punk rock sound an added, interesting layer. Hints of bands like Fugazi, Cave In and No Motive abound.

“Homeward Bound” has a sound like many a live bootleg recorded at a sweaty, underground basement club show, as intense as it is imperfect. There is not a whole lot of polish here: “Homeward Bound” could have been released in the late 1970s or early 1980s and been as good a fit then as it is now. Drummer Dave Brent plays solid, if basic, punk beats, preferring to team with Jonathan Minto’s muddy, gritty bass sound to serve as the rock steady rhythm section that allow frontwoman/guitarist Louise Hanman to build on, and to take some chances in the process.

Hanman’s voice isn’t perfect (it gets a tad pitchy at times), but she sings her ass off and is committed in full to each and every note on the album’s twelve tracks (minus the instrumental “Intro”). Her voice lives somewhere in between Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics and Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney for the bulk of the album, and at times hits such an intense level of the stratosphere that it overloads the microphone from time to time (more a fault of the recording hardware than Hanman’s pipes).

Caves are at their best when they keep things simple. “Time and Time Again” is a basic 4/4 punk song about always making the same mistakes – power chord attack. Title track “Homeward Bound” is right in the band’s wheelhouse – plenty of post-hardcore influece, it’s raw and aggressive and melodic…a little bit of a deviation from traditional 4/4 punk songs, but this is a dimension the band should really explore more, as it fits their strengths to a tee. Okay, so maybe the lead guitar fill might need a little work, but again, chalk it up to the live show bootleg feel to the album, and it just adds to the whole experience. Also among the strongest cuts is “The Mess I Made,” my personal favorite track from the album, it deals with similar themes to “Time and Time Again.”

There are some down notes on “Homeward Bound.” “Taking On The World” is more of a mid-tempo punk song and, while catchy, it doesn’t really do anything for me. That could just be the mix, as the guitar sounds particularly thin and fuzzy at times on this track. The album is also a tad long, and the lack of production quality has a tendency to make everything sound uniform and, at times, difficult to listen to. Again, this is more a by-product of the recording process and not of the quality of the songwriting. Also, the “whoa-oh-ohs” of most every chorus get a little repetitive after a while.

“Homeward Bound” is a solid first release from this Bristol three-piece. They do the melodic punk thing very well, though it would be nice to see them take some more chances down the post-hardcore riff road in the future. Also, a step up from the “record live in the living room studio with one single microphone in the middle” sound would do wonders for helping Caves take their raw, personal material to another level.



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