The Sea And Cake - Everybody

They are all the same pace, last the same amount of time and chug along in much the same fashion. And every time Prekop's vocals kick in the heart sinks a little.

 

The Sea And Cake – Everybody (Thrill Jockey)

 

The Sea And Cake are something of a Chicago supergroup. Sam Prekop, Eric Claridge, Archer Prewitt and John McIntire all came to the group from bands that were well known on the Chicago scene. Prekop and Prewitt also have solo careers whilst McIntire is a member of Tortoise and producer extraordinaire. In addition to their musical abilities Prekop, Claridge and Prewitt are also successful artists. It's not surprising, then, that it isn't every day that they get the chance to meet up and knock out an album. Everybody is their first for four years and is, so they say, their 'rock' album.

 

Well, it's a kind of rock album I suppose. There are certainly guitars and drums on it. But if it Everybody is going to be filed anywhere it would be under summery lounge pop, or some such similar category. The album - warm sounding and languid – is dominated to some extent by Prekop's wispy vocals. He whispers, rather than sings, and I think this does the songs a bit of a disservice. Because the singing is so lightweight it appears that the band lack heart and passion, and that these are more like doodles as opposed to fully-fledged songs.

 

The album kicks off with Up On Crutches. Strummed acoustic guitar and a chiming electric guitar are backed by a steady beat and Prekop's vocals. The song moves through a series of subtle shifts but basically this is a gentle pop song, the kind one could imagine Stereolab making were they to lose their Krautrock angle. It's a perfectly fine song. As are the rest – Too Strong is similar in tone to the opening track but with some keyboard nurdles; Crossing Line adds fuzzy guitar to the mix and Middlenight is slightly more sombre and melancholy. Cocoanut is probably the catchiest track on the album and features sweet backing vocals. But as you can probably tell there isn't a great deal to distinguish the tracks from one another. They are all the same pace, last the same amount of time and chug along in much the same fashion. And every time Prekop's vocals kick in the heart sinks a little.

 

These are not bad songs and this is a very talented group. But there is something stale about the sound. Their first album came out in 1993 and the template for the sound was set then. But listening to tracks such as Jacking the Ball and Calabra Cut you can see a group of musicians playing around and having fun. The music does not seem to exist in a straightjacket, as it does on Everybody. It just seems that there is something safe – arid, almost – with the playing on this album. I'll leave the last words to Prekop himself (this came from an interview with The Wire magazine) –

 

"Lately, all of our work has been towards finishing a record, it's pointed at one project, which is how we've worked on the past 4 or 5 records. It's been a long time since we just wrote songs for the fun of it, for good times. That's way over.'

 

Tongue in cheek or not one can hear evidence of this in the record itself.

 

Words: Chris Dawson