.@thecavesingers – Welcome Joy

.@thecavesingers – Welcome Joy

Review form Pitchfork.
If you still think of the Cave Singers as a side project, a spinoff, a lark dreamed up by a few ex-punks with big back porches, I say go with it; two albums in, you’ve almost got to wonder if that’s not how the Cave Singers still see themselves. Derek Fudesco, late of much missed incandescent emoters Pretty Girls Make Graves, and a crew of fellow Pac Northwest facial hair enthusiasts got together a couple years back to make an EP and then later an LP, 2007’s Invitation Songs, of ultracasual folk, floaty and freewheeling but tossed off and only fleetingly memorable. Given Fudesco’s hyperkinetic pop pedigree, this new thing seemed an oddly easygoing showcase for his formidable chops, like one of those dreadful early-90s Jerry Garcia/David Grisman albums that announced on the cover they were recorded over a weekend. The Cave Singers just seemed like a band who’d have to get real good real fast or probably wouldn’t feel the need to do what they’d done already; that lark thing again.

Yet here we have Welcome Joy, their second long-player in just shy of two years, so if this is all a goof, this bunch has an enviable amount of time to screw around. It’s yet another fine and mellow set of twangy, slightly tart folk rockers, warm but patchy like a farmer’s tan. Lead singer Pete Quirk’s amber voice is wavering and grainy as ever, and the tunes roll by nice and easy like a pickup rattling down a country road. But from the wide open arrangements to the tug’n’tumble of Fudesco’s picking to Quirk’s reedy bleats never quite congealing into memorable ditties, Welcome Joy does precious little to distinguish itself from its predecessor.

These tunes seem like they’d fall over in a strong enough breeze, and with songs rarely composed of more than the wispy lilt of the guitar and Quirk’s slightly droll drawlery, there’s not always enough to catch your ear over the whirr of the boxfan. Quirk’s behind-the-beat delivery is certainly the band’s strongest suit, but combined with those rusty pipes, he tends to swallow syllables whole, rendering lyrics more than occasionally indecipherable. That might be for the best, actually, given the hippy-dippy pastoralism of the odd word or two that does slip out. Fudesco’s fingerwork, a product of his Pac NW upbringing, is impressively unfettered, but he adds the same little bump in the road to nearly every tune, which wears with time; at least Modest Mouse had the good sense to make only “Wild Packs of Family Dogs” weird, and make it only once.