When, in 2001, Wesley Eisold yelped, "I drew a heart around the name of your city" — just after leading a choir of Bostonian gang vocalists in the refrain, "Screaming gets you nothing" — we should have known his days playing hardcore were numbered. Despite fronting American Nightmare, one of the most recognizable acts in the hardcore scene at the time, Eisold — whose lyrics were often absurdly earnest when they weren't littered with irony — was not so much out of touch with the genre as he was simply passing through. After all, as many people in Nashville can attest, there's only so much you can accomplish within a style that's relatively limiting (play faster?) and based upon ideologies with extreme demands that aren't well-suited to swoopy-haired-poet types.
So, after years of flailing around sweat-filled, piled-on stages, Eisold had a revelation that would set him on the path he's still on today. Instead of merely providing words to accompany music written by others and making inherent compromises along the way, he would start a project composed solely of his own compositions and poetry. ("Poetry" is used here instead of "lyrics" because, well, Eisold is a published poet. Even Fall Out Boy, who had to settle with him out of court in 2007 because they lifted three songs' worth of his couplets, knows that.) And despite having never written a song up to that point, Eisold nonetheless turned instinct into action, demo-ing songs on a Casio keyboard and slowly laying a foundation for what would soon become Cold Cave, his hotly tipped synth-pop project, which now boasts a growing following all over the world.
Eisold introduced Cold Cave to the public through a series of singles released during 2008 and 2009 on his own Heartworm Press, the noise label Hospital Productions and the boutique outfit What's Your Rupture? Underground buzz ensued, and soon after, the venerable house of Matador became intrigued enough to reissue Love Comes Close, Cold Cave's debut LP, which had been released just a few months prior on Heartworm. That decision seemingly paid off for all parties involved, as the collection was lavished with praise in both the independent and experimental music press. And considering that the album's obvious lineage — think Factory Records' heyday with a dash of The Smiths and Depeche Mode — was a defining influence among myriad artists in the early part of the same decade, this was no meager feat. Yet Love Comes Close made waves anyway.
In part, it can be said that Love Comes Close owed its success to Eisold's naïveté, which allowed him to experiment unhindered by expectations — most fans of hardcore, in particular, had no idea that he was behind Cold Cave at first — and also to the fact that the collection somehow felt more authentic than other attempts that were equally riddled with Manchesterisms. Unlike, say, The Bravery, Cold Cave didn't appear to be a starry-eyed pop act dressing itself in dark, New Wave linens to shrewdly capture the moment.
Armed with even more of the antihero credibility that's endeared listeners to him since his earliest days in the Boston hardcore scene, Eisold wasted no time in raising the stakes of what Cold Cave could be when it came time to craft his latest effort, Cherish the Light Years. Moving from his bedroom in Philly to both Electric Lady and DFA's Plantain Studios in New York, Eisold worked with Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio) to create a massive-sounding, fist-pumping collection of industrial dance jams, each heavily compressed and ferociously executed. Hints of early Nine Inch Nails, M83 and The Rapture have replaced the more brooding, Morrissey-inflected experimental pop of Love Comes Close. So much so that the album's been incredibly divisive among his earliest supporters.
Cherish is easily the more memorable of Cold Cave's two full-lengths, putting on full display Eisold's newfound confidence as a writer and a vocalist. At the same time, it makes clear that he's somehow still tastefully gleaning inspiration from an era that was picked over long ago. Indeed, perhaps the greatest irony is that we remain unsurprised in the end: Eisold has been thwarting expectations since day one.
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