SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT: SOMEHOW DON CABALLERO GOT AWESOME AGAIN
Once upon a time, these guys were amazing, in a very specific, granddaddies of math-rock kinda way. Sure, some of the jams would go on for a really long time, often repeating a rhythmic guitar loop for ages while the octopussian drummer, Damon Che, would thump and pound concentric circles around yr ass, but the music would wax and wane, shift and progress, each section creating a strong distinct mood — almost always fascinating but not always so interesting, nawmean?
In any case, Don Caballero holds a vital spot in the history of…well, in the history of math-rock, even though they apparently hated that genre name (especially in reference to their trigonometric music). But honestly folks there’s no other way to describe it, as their sound usually seems straight out of an AP Calculus textbook: complicated, quite textured, and haughty (for the most part). Extremely impressive, not the most listenable band out there. And the last time I saw them play (with a mostly new line-up) the set left a lot to be desired.
But now, a small handful of years later, some way, somehow…Don Caballero seems to have gotten awesome again.
Don Cab used to be cool. No question about it — their older records are totally worth checking out. Just don’t expect to listen to an album the whole way through without getting somewhat sick of it part of the way. I think that bands like that are good to experience and incorporate into one’s musical lexicon, but I guess overall these are not the albums you’d want with you if you were stranded on a desert island. However, some of those tracks still resonate with me rather immensely, so if I could bring an ipod on the aforementioned island I would likely be psyched to have a grab bag of Don Cab. But I’d also prolly want “Move Out” by Yaz, so maybe my island ipod example doesn’t have that much weight after all.
Don Caballero released five albums over their seven year heyday, and then broke up in 2000, apparantly via a very intense rift between Che and guitar player Ian Williams, which strangely seems sort of similar to the falling out between guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton and another illustrious drummer, John Stainer, from another important (and more metal) band, Helmet. And oddly Ian Williams has now teamed up with Stainer to form the organic electro/guitar/laptop band Battles (MySpace link below).
A few years after the breakup, the 75% defunct Don Cab took on a new form as Che chose to revitalize the group in 2003 with new players that he made play exactly the same way as the old ones. At the time when he and the new line-up first hit the road, I went to a show with a couple friends, and we hated on the whole damn thing. The cold, mechanical playing style and the aforementioned cloning of the former guitar player(s) made this new Don Cab a joke, we proclaimed. And the fact that there was only one original member was pretty laughable. Or so we thought at the time.
Don Cab drummer Damon Che w/a couple of douche baguettes awesome guitar players
I just recently heard the latest Don Cab album, World Class Listening Problem (actually released in 2006), from start to finish, and I am quite the reinspired believer. The new cuts (2 of the best ones available on Don Cab’s MySpace page and 1 other linked below) are passionate and side-stepping, flinging parabolas and stealing kisses; a bit more accessible than (a lot of) the older stuff, but it’s all sorta got the same vibe, despite the drastic line-up changes four or five years ago.
Does that mean that despite Ian Williams’ incredibly unique guitar style, Damon Che was indeed always the brainchild behind this outfit? Either that, or he’s hired some pretty damn fine counterfeiters, because honestly the new stuff sounds like Don Cab at its songwriting peak.
DON CABALLERO – “Don Caballero 3”, from What Burns Never Returns (1998)
DON CABALLERO – “Fire Back About Your New Baby’s Sex”, from American Don (2000)
DON CABALLERO – “Mmmmm Acting, I Love Me Some Good Acting”, from World Class Listening Problem (2006)
Visit Don Cab on MySpace (and check out some more awesome recent tracks)
Ian Williams/Damon Che circa ’99