Release Date: Oct 21, 2008
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Released 17 months after Everybody, a mere blink of an eye for this group of Renaissance men, Car Alarm represents an attempt by the Sea and Cake to be a working band -- for what may be the last time, what with family obligations to place among the vast array of outside interests. The album was written in a burst just after returning from an Australian tour, and recorded in a fairly quick span as well. The results seem to have refreshed this band of post-rock stalwarts, who may never need (or desire) a radical shift in sound, but should have already easily fallen prey to laziness -- an album where the adjective "workmanlike" becomes an insult rather than a compliment.
The sloth is the slowest moving land mammal on Earth. Far from being slovenly, the sloth is a dignified creature whose movement is analogous to that of an ancient tai chi master. Sloths force us to make an important distinction between the slow and the idle. The sloth isn’t a lazy creature; it just embodies enviable traits such as grace, poise, and elegance.The four members of the Sea and Cake move in much the same way as the sloth, and they bear many of the same hallmarks.
I know they've been around forever, so this may not be apt, but, man, every time I listen to this album all I can picture is Pavement trying to play their instruments while totally overdosing on muscle relaxers and Percocet, sunbathing on a beach surrounded by their favourite Coltrane albums. In reality, the eighth from the long-running mellow and breezy artsy indie rockers finds them sounding as comfortable as they should, which is both a plus and a minus. On the plus side, they continue to refine their sedate sound with an angular indie-meets-quasi-jazz approach that ambles along well enough.
The Sea and CakeCan’t hear the car alarmhiatus), they’ve achieved a level of consistency only Calexico or Quaker Oats could rival. Like Car Alarm’s monochromatic cover, you have to work to see the variations. “Fuller Moon” uses steel drum to follow the guitar line, and the rolling arpeggiated squiggle of “Weekend” is one of few electronic touches.
While there’s nothing particularly wrong on the last few Sea and Cake albums, their existence seems somewhat tangential. I’ve heard them, and I’m sure I liked them, but specific songs or albums rarely prove memorable, with the exception of 1997’s The Fawn. Rather, it’s been their stylistic distinctness that always remains with me; it’s not so much that Sea and Cake create songs and albums, but rather that Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt have a sound they’re rather enamored with and are just happy to use that as the palpable stuff with which to craft the music out of (as opposed to say, the tactility of the music following from the composition).