Sunday, July 7, 2013

Album Review: Crystal Fighters - Cave Rave (2013)

Oh, I don’t know. I’m really not sure what I want to say about the new (ish) Crystal Fighters album Cave Rave. I’ve listened to it a few times now and while it isn’t vastly different to the band’s debut, Star of Love, which I thoroughly enjoyed back in 2011, I’m not so sure about this one. I get the feeling you may be in for the archetypal “review of two halves” …

I closed my review of that previous album with the words … “I can’t wait to see what Crystal Fighters come up with next”… well, what they’ve come up with is more of the same; only this time it is a far more polished form of the Anglo/Spanish pop that served the band so well the first time around. Music that’s both danceable and instantly accessible. More warm summery vibes, more folk-world crossover fare for the masses. Some of it, with its big choruses and eternal optimism, might even be considered stadium ready if that’s the path Crystal Fighters wind up going down.
Listening to Cave Rave, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that such a route – that of mass appeal – is precisely the market Crystal Fighters are aiming for. And who can really fault a band for that … right?

A part of me really loves this stuff. If it isn’t already blatantly obvious from the content found on everythingsgonegreen, my very own guilty secret is an unashamed love for pop music in its purest forms, and Cave Rave fits the bill perfectly (as did Star of Love). There’s a helluva lot to like. Even in the midst of the Southern hemisphere’s deepest and darkest winter months there’s much warmth and positivity to be found amid these pop hooks. There’s times where you can almost feel the soft sand beneath your feet as you’re transported to a world where blue skies, long nights, and post-adolescent love reign supreme. The backdrop is a Mediterranean beach, the soundtrack an endless series of tides ebbing and flowing against its sun-baked shores.
So, that’s the good bit (I think). It’s the same band, and very much the same formula.

But I’m also wondering why it is some of these tracks just end up grating on my nerves. The harsher dubstep textures found on the band’s debut are no longer there, and the hooks and choruses on Cave Rave become almost a little too relentless in their wanton need to hit home. It somehow all feels a little too plastic for its own good … a little disposable, even.
A sharp edge has been removed from the band’s work on Cave Rave, replaced only by a slick slab of surfboard wax, and perhaps a random sprinkling of sugar; parts of the album are so saccharine and sickly there are moments where I’m scrambling from the beach, and crawling up into the dunes, looking for a place to quietly throw up … I’m classy like that.

It also feels a little bit like a “coming of age” album. An album for anyone going through that … by a band that might well be doing that very thing itself.

If I’m feeling a little conflicted about Cave Rave, it probably comes down to that age old mental quarrel between the youthful eternal optimist of yore, and aging world-weary cynic/realist of the now.

Or it might just be as simple as the fact that I’m currently caught in the midst of extreme southerly wind blasts coming up directly from the harsh mid-winter environs of the Antarctic, and the joys of Cave Rave feel as distant as they might possibly be right now.

Whatever the case, this one is worth saving, and I’m going to give it another crack in the summer months …

Download: ‘Wave’, ‘You & I', and ‘Everywhere’.

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