Caves – ‘Always Why’

By Matthew Wilson

Newly transatlantic punks Caves make their intentions known from the opening of ‘Asleep’, as birdsong, feedback and a subdued solo riff subside into a chaotic cacophony of crashing drums and elastic guitars, as vocalist Lou Hanman howls “back and forward I go!” ‘Always Why’, the third album from the Bristolian/US band deals with the anxieties of being physically, historically and emotionally separated.

The relentless pop punk onslaught of previous records has been tempered with slower tempos and more expansive compositions, an outcome of the band’s new writing method. With Hanman now residing in the US and the rest of the band in the UK, the group overcame the distance by swapping ideas over Garageband.

It’s led Caves to become more willing to experiment, evident when ‘Feather’ abandons its conventional structure halfway through and launches into an effects-heavy onslaught, caked in reverb and oscillating feedback. Similarly, the moody intro to politically charged rampage ‘Border’ gives greater power when the rest of the band kicks in, adding weight to Hanman’s rage at those “determined to keep us separate!”

Caves aren’t afraid to slow it down to make room for some of their new ideas, as the menacing bass heavy ‘Dangerous’ shows. But Caves still find time to rip it up, especially on ‘Need It Most’, with its crunchy staccato struts running wild over a huge singalong chorus.

‘16’ is equally ferocious whilst finding time to be tender. An uptempo ode to teenage queer love with Hanman reminiscing about being a sixteen year old girl, “too scared to fall in love”. It’s instantly re-contextualised with ‘America’, anxious about the land of the free’s “fake” freedom, visa worries and fear of being forcibly separated from those that you love.

With an ocean in between them, most bands would probably struggle to deal with the distance, yet being separated hasn’t hindered Caves at all. Instead, ‘Always Why’ is focused on separation, stuck in the space between two ideas, between the ferocity of Caves and the natural sounds that keep on seeping through in the record’s quieter moments. In this separation, they’ve managed to find the space to grow their sound. ‘Always Why’ is proof that there’s no distance too great to overcome.

MATTHEW WILSON

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