Caves are awesome. And if you didn’t know that, you have some catching up to do! The debut Homeward Bound was rough, yet clearly had hooks and potential, but last year’s Betterment was really where Caves took off and honed their distinctive sound. It was pretty much wall-to-wall hits, with the wham-bam of “<3 Koala” and “Betterment” my personal highlight. It is perhaps considering how highly I rate Betterment that it has taken me so long to get into the new one. Leaving is less immediate and punchy, but, all things considered, it is probably almost as good. They are now operating as a duo as well, so that is pretty impressive.
Musically, Leaving picks up where Betterment left off. For the uninitiated, that means gritty, poppy punk full of hooks, girl-boy vocals and sing-a-longs. Oh, and woah-ohs. They love them. Opening and closing your album on one long woah-oh is quite something else. A pure minute of woaaaaaaaaaaahhh-ohhhhh on final track “Sadder” blew my little pop-punk mind. Back to the non-woah-oh stuff, and “Leaving” is easily my favourite song on here. It is 1:36 mins of pure, unadulterated, hook-filled joy. Other bands would milk that chorus for all its worth, but Caves, in pop-punk tradition, play short, but sweet. Its posi-nature is typical Caves too and largely sums up the record’s lyrical content: “I’ll be the change the world needs today”. Meanwhile, “Puddle” is today’s punchy pop-punk channelled through ‘90s emo. “Oh Antonio” is distorted and unsettling (in a good way) and gives bassist Jonathan Minto an opportunity to impress on vocals. There is definitely more experimentation this time around, with “Compare” being noticeably the most a-typical Caves song, coming directly before the drone-y, out-there “Dull”. This is all over in around 20 minutes, but Leaving burrows itself into your head, leaving you reaching for the repeat button.
Take a listen here: http://caves.bandcamp.com/