REVIEW: The Caribbean: History's First Know-It-All
The Caribbean: History's First Know-It-All [Endearing, 2003] (mp3s)
Three words? slow and low
What exactly The Caribbean are trying to pull off completely eludes me. At any moment, during any song, the band can sound simultaneously warm and coldly metallic, humourous and deadly serious, subdued and manic or tossed-off and intensely concentrated. And they seem blissfully unconcerned about their ambiguous nature. These guys are ice water. These guys are ice water with poker faces. These guys are post-millennial rock's answer to Christopher Walken. And their new (not so new, by the time you have read this) album, History's First Know-It-All, is a package of snappy musical conundrums.
On History's First Know-It-All, The Caribbean's second full-length album, the drums are the first thing to stand out. Stark, precise and without any flourishes or showboating, Tony Dennison's beats are both haunting and funky. (I have recently gotten into his former band, Smart Went Crazy. Con Art is very cool, you should check it out if you have not already.) Keyboards appear more prominently here than on The Caribbean's last disc, Verse by Verse, and most memorably on the end of "In-House," giving it an olden-style Motown feel. The accordion (or at least what I'm fairly certain is an accordion) on "Fresh Out of Travel Agent School" weaves higher and lower in the mix, finally settling nicely into the background, creating some atmosphere.
History's First Know-It-All does not deviate far from The Caribbean's past output, with most of the songs sounding as if they would not be out of place on Verse by Verse. The lyrics are still somewhat discouraging and delivered in the same rote toneless whisper, but the more developed and engaging songs like "Officer Garvey" and "Annunciator Zone" show the band steadily improving as songwriters. This is a great album to spend some time thinking about.