Record Review - 3 November 11 2000
Was the phrase "math rock" even around when Don Caballero started releasing material? Is the genre even around anymore now that Don Caballero have released their latest, American Don?
Math rock was just a way for college kids to avoid admitting they liked listening to heavy metal. Yep, strip away the vocals and bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica were playing "math rock" in the mid- to late-`80s, way before Polvo, way, way before the Fucking Champs (nothing against the Fucking Champs, or Polvo, for that matter, Iron Maiden and Metallica just had better merchandise). Sure, it's cooler to namedrop King Crimson, but the distortion-laden, intricate, intertwining, repeating guitar phrasing and abrupt time changes that constituted heavy metal were all over math rock.
Were all over math rock, at least in Don Caballero's case. Gone is the aggressive use of distortion that characterized Don Caballero up to this point. Perhaps it's because guitarist Mike Banfield is now gone, and Ian Williams handles all axe duties, with Eric Emm now on more audible bass. A lot of the jazzy clean-tone is reminiscent of Williams and Emm's other band, Storm & Stress.
Even if the tone's sparse, the rhythm's still spastic. Like Slint, only none of that loud/soft shit. Don Caballero isn't about building, it's about bulldozing. Like a jackhammer, delayed sounds layer over subtler licks. Geometric guitar arpeggios repeat over dynamic drumming.
Heavy metal sucks now. Math rock ... well, the verdict's still out on whether it ever even existed. Luckily, if you like instrumental rock, Don Caballero's still around, doing what they do best, just a little differently.
Don Caballero perform at Eyedrum, Thurs., Nov. 9.