As I left Schubas on Thursday night, I couldn't get "Thankful" out of my head. This is the first song I heard from Caveman many months back, and I still feel like it's the one that sticks with you most. It's a bit haunting, and when frontman Matt Iwanusa sings, Thankful are my friends with remorse, it's hard not to sing along. It creeps into the subconscious and and takes on a life of its own.
A lot of the songs played throughout the night began with eerie instrumental parts. They would build steam with guitar effects, awash in keyboards and dueling drum beats, only to crescendo into full blown pop gems. On record these dynamics work well. But live, these intros took too long getting to the meat. At certain points these bits of swirling distortion, and drumming were lost on me. Still, just a minor distraction.
Whereas songs like "Old Friend" energized the crowd with big Jeff Lynne like choruses, and swooning background vocals. Iwanusa has a great voice, and when Cavemen showcase this, the band is at its finest. "Old Friend" is a great pop song, and came across perfect to the crowd. I would love to see more songwriting like this in the future. "Decide," and "My Time," were in the same vein. Both holding attention, while creating a sea of bopping heads.
"My Time" felt like the Strokes a bit, propelled by some fantastic time keeping and a great guitar lead. It livened up the set just like "Decide" did. I would compare the latter to something off of Radiohead's 'Limbs LP.
In "My Room," delivered the best of both worlds. These two aspects I spoke of above, worked together seamlessly. While the vocals draw you in, the sparse guitar work created a floating bed of sound, that reminded me of "The Sound of Silence," by Simon and Garfunkel. It's a very moody piece that worked well live. Here I liked the added toms and rim shots, in between the rest of the instrumentation.
Other standouts included "A Country's King of Dreams," "December 28th," and "Easy Water." All in all, this was a great set of tunes, that shows incredible promise for the future of Caveman. Again, the best things happen when they are firing on all cylinders, and Matt shapes the tunes with his brooding melodies. I'm excited to see what they do next, as this showing at Schubas Backroom was a great start.