Album review: Cave, ‘Neverendless’ (Drag City)

August 22, 2011

As with those simple ingredients at the heart of the Ramones’ pop-punk buzz, the basics of the Neu! formula are easy to imitate but very difficult to equal: the motorik beat that evokes speeding through the night on the autobahn; the echo-drenched guitar lines, at once both wispy and massive, lulling and chaotic; the ambient buzz that splits the difference between sinister/mechanical and ethereal/organic. Plenty, including Neu! co-founder Michael Rother on his Hallogallo 2010 tour, have duplicated those sounds but somehow fallen short of the brilliance of the three albums Neu! released in their early ’70s krautrock heyday. But on its third album, Neverendless, the Chicago quartet Cave gets everything right and then some, adding unexpected twists and turns during a metronomic rush into the darkness that befits the groundbreaking spirit of the band's more obvious influence.

The biggest key to Cave’s success is that the Missouri-to-Chicago transplants don’t skimp on the melodies: The riffs at the heart of each of the hypnotizing jams on Neverendless worm their way into your subconscious, and they’re as effective at propelling you forward as drummer Rex McMurry’s Naval Clock-reliable snare and hi-hat. But the fact that the musicians aren’t obsessed with slavish imitation also helps in making them the best Neu! disciples since Stereolab; there are plenty of other ingredients bubbling in their stew, from post-rock digital chatter to ’60s psychedelic organ riffs, from space-rock synthesizer squeals to eruptions of Sonic Youth noise guitar. And all of it make you wish Neverendless would never end.

On the four-star scale: 3.5 STARS

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