Cave Painting are a Brighton based band signed to Third Rock Recordings. Their debut album Votive Life released on 24th September this year certainly promised much, but did it really deliver? There was a lot of hype surrounding the album prior to its release because of the popularity of their pre-released tracks, such as ‘Rio’ and ‘Gator’. Not to mention the fact that they have played a few dates with Mercury Prize nominees (and favourites to win) Alt-J, who actually have one of the best albums I’ve heard this year so far. It really does feel like Votive Life will meet the hype at first…but then it starts to get less convincing.
The album opens with ‘Leaf’ which begins with an assault of noise then cuts into the softness of singer Adam Kane’s voice. It’s a solid song and a great opener to the album. Nuff said. Next is ‘Gator’ which is without doubt one of the stand-out tracks of the album. Kane’s lilting vocals and the African glockenspiel
sums up their distinctive sound – swaying, atmospheric indie rock. If that makes any sense at all. This is the track to listen to if you want to know what they’re about. ‘So Calm’, my personal favourite, includes Kane’s soaring vocals and chiming chords courtesy of guitarist Harry Smallwood. The repeating line “I’m not wasting time” sticks in your head for hours, especially if you’ve been procrastinating when you’ve got a load of work to do. Jonathan McCawley’s drums in ‘Handle’ match the tribal namesake of the band to produce a slightly darker sound than the previous songs. To me, this song in particular acted as a bit of a metaphor for the whole album really: it starts off really well, lulls, gets good for a bit, and then drops again.
It’s when we reach ‘Only Us’ that the appeal of Kane’s drawn vocals starts to wear off and it gets a bit exasperating. As a standalone track, it could work but here I feel it blends into the background of the album. Also, at 3:23 the music cuts off and his voice has a bit of a David Gray tone to it (remember him?
yeah, I cringed too) and the fact that this is the best bit of the song says it all really. ‘The Gator’ interlude is a nice break in the album and a reminder of how well it all started, and then we move onto the (sorry, it’s got to be said) distinctly average ‘Pair Up’ which feels more like an album-filler than a genuine track. They could do without it to be honest. Similarly, I found ‘Simoleon’ forgettable and the guitar reprise at the end sounds nowhere near as epic as it should have done.
But then we’re gifted with ‘Rio’ and it feels like there’s hope yet! This is where his vocals really work, with the best bit being the line “Who would have seen my face, when I was a hollow man?”. Deep stuff. The sheer vulnerability in his voice when he sings “Riooooo” and “I won’t go” and the a capella “So loooong” at the end makes you fall in love with them again. But that feeling’s short-lived, as the ‘Me You Soon’ interlude is a major anti-climax that doesn’t fit as well as the other interlude in the album, followed by ‘Nickel’. Just…disappointment. To close the album we have ‘Forming’– an average song to end an average album which, I hasten to add, is a real pity seeing as Cave Painting is a band with so much potential.
There are some incredible tracks on this album (Leaf, Gator, So Calm, Rio) but you might as well not listen to the rest of it because although it starts off promising, by the end it has ultimately failed to deliver. Many of the other tracks do just feel more like album-fillers than anything else. It could have been terrible had it not been for those aforementioned gems.Singer Kane’s vocals are the focus of the band’s sound and they definitely have a lilting vulnerable charm, but it does start to wear thin midway through the album. Nevertheless, I still look forward to what Cave Painting will do in the future. Any band that’s so actively involved in their own art and design, and can write a song about a girl called Rio without mentioning trivial things like how she dances in the sand, have got my respect.