Some kind of Cadwallader.

Life is tough. Over the last few years, I've alternated periods of decent equilibrium with periods when every day was a fucking slog. Even at the best of times, though, there've been things that made it hard. The economy is going to shit and I'm afraid I'll lose my job. My car died, then I got another one, then the new one died a month later. I'm having trouble writing. And the one that strikes at my heart the deepest--I can't seem to connect with other people. Sure, I've got friends, but sometimes I just feel like I'm bugging them, and I don't want to call. So I sit in my room alone and no one hears from me for a while. At times like that, all I have to turn to is music.

Lately I've been turning quite often to the debut full-length, "Some Kind Of Cadwallader," by Philadelphia's Algernon Cadwallader. They have a sound that is both jarring and intensely melodic, and write songs that seem both upbeat and bizarrely structured. And to someone who didn't live through the mid-90s era of the underground emo scene, they might seem very unusual and original. To me, though, someone who did live through that period, they give quite a different impression. When I listen to them, I hear the resurrection of Cap'n Jazz.

There are certainly people I've talked to about this band that seem ready to dismiss them for exactly that reason. "They're just stealing from the Kinsella brothers," they tell me. "What they don't take from Cap'n Jazz comes from American Football or the Owls." It's a hard position to argue against, because I see exactly what they mean. Cadwallader vocalist Peter sounds so much like Tim Kinsella that I actually had to Google Algernon Cadwallader the first time I heard them just to make sure it wasn't a new Tim Kinsella project. Sure enough, there's no connection between the two bands, which makes a great deal of what shows up on "Some Kind Of Cadwallader" a pretty direct imitation of earlier work by Tim and Mike Kinsella, plus their usual coterie of musical collaborators (Victor Villareal, Sam Zurick, etc.).

But I guess that's OK with me. In fact, I've always had a hard time condemning bands just for obvious display of influences. At the end of the day, I figure they've either got the chops or they don't. And Algernon Cadwallader have got the chops. I know this because their album's been one of the only things keeping my head above water, emotionally speaking, these last few days. I don't really want to get into why I've needed them for this, but I will make a general statement about myself that hopefully explains my specific circumstance. Here it goes: one thing I have learned this week is that while I've gotten very good at handling being single, I've still got a lot of problems with dating. In particular, I'm going to have to learn to handle the uncertainty that is a big part of making a romantic connection with another person, instead of retreating back to the safety of single-dom anytime I feel a bit nervous about whether someone reciprocates my affections.

That's all you really need to know, so let's move on.

Algernon Cadwallader have a knack for capturing emotions in their songs that seems like it would be undiminished even by vocalist Peter eschewing actual words in favor of wordless caterwauling (cadwallading?). He sings in that same passionate howl that Tim Kinsella made famous with his vocals in Cap'n Jazz, forcing his voice to crack as he gasps out notes that are obviously above and beyond his natural range. It's the kind of thing that would give any high-school chorus teacher absolute fits, but from my perspective, it somehow seems more sincere than some chorus student with perfect pitch would sound if they were hitting the same notes. What's more, Peter's voice is laden with emotion, which comes through every time it strains, cracks, sometimes even dissolving into an atonal scream that indicates complete failure to hit a particular note. The best moment with which to illustrate this point comes in the song "Horror." In this song's lyrics, Peter is comparing his favorite scary stories to books of early American history that he has read, and finds them wanting. "The one that really scared the shit out of me," he tells us, "followed Frankenstein and the walking dead. Drake Douglas depicts the African slave trade and blunts Dracula's teeth." All of this is just building towards the moment I want to call your attention to, though. At the end of the second verse, he sings, "The Texas chainsaw massacre and all of these..." then gasps out the words, "Just baby brother!" The next line, the final line of the song, is "To American history," and his point is well taken. However, it's not the words themselves that communicate the emotion of the song to me. Instead, it's the way Peter delivers the word "brother." Quite often, when his voice breaks, you can still hear the underlying note he was trying to hit. He may not nail it dead on, but he comes close, and you can hear what it was intended to be. The word "brother" as it is sung in "Horror," though, is nothing more than an unmusical scream. As he reaches the end of the word, in fact, he lets the final syllable dissolve in his throat, and it almost sounds like he's crying. When I hear this one word, it raises goosebumps down my arms.

But it's the song that follows "Horror," "Motivational Song," that really connects with me lyrically. "Johnny, get on with your life," Peter sings. "You won't get a chance to get on with it twice. So if fucking up feels right, then fuck it up!" This is the thing I most appreciate right now. So I guess let's talk a little more about me being stressed out, OK? It's tough to decide if what's going on with me right now counts as me fucking up. Really, I feel like I was true to myself, I was sincere, and I never did anything that should make anyone feel uncomfortable. That I'm aware of. And yet, I'm not having the desired outcome. Sure, some of any situation like this is just out of my control. Which, of course, is one of the things, probably the biggest thing, I need to learn to deal with. But I can't help but wonder if I fucked up. What did I do wrong? I just don't know. I guess if I did fuck up, fucking up felt right. "So fuck it up!" say Algernon Cadwallader, and it's the sort of advice I'd have no trouble giving someone else. Sometimes it's best to just do what feels right, instead of hesitating or trying to second-guess your desires. If nothing else, hopefully you'll learn something you didn't know before, and will be able to do the right thing going forward. Or maybe you won't learn anything, but at least you were true to yourself. At least I was true to myself, right? Right?

"Spread love and you're less likely to step in shit when you're retracing," Peter sings. "Share what people show you." I think I did that. In fact, I know I did--what I don't know is whether it was wise. But it felt right. Does Algernon Cadwallader have some definitive answer for me? Not quite. "Motivational Song" buids to a crescendo at the end of the second verse, at which time Peter is joined by the rest of the band, who combine to sing a wordless chorus of the type that we've all heard plenty of times. "Bop shoo wop!" They sing. "Shoo wop bop baa! Shoo wop bop!" It seems like it would have been a cliche 20 years ago, but it works here. Partly it's the sheer exuberance of the delivery, but more interesting to my mind is the fact that this bouncy, upbeat chorus is structured unusually, coming back around to its starting point every 5 measures instead of every 4, as is the standard in pop music. Underneath the singing, Cadwallader's guitar players lay down twisting patterns of single-note melody that twine around each other in a manner that somewhat resembles Mike Kinsella's American Football but actually reminds me more of another 90s emo band, Ethel Meserve, whose twisting guitar leads were dictated by their lead guitarist's insistence that the two guitarists in the band never play in unison. Like Ethel Meserve, Algernon Cadwallader are often able to create emotional crescendoes in their music without resorting to the distortion that is the stock in trade of so many post-hardcore bands. Instead, they allow the riffing itself to build the tension and the emotion in the songs, and eventually it builds up to a climax. This is exactly what happens in "Motivational Song," with the musical climax coinciding with the entire band's wordless chanted chorus. However, that chorus abruptly ends after four measures, and what follows is even more interesting. The song drops into a funky breakdown, which is almost entirely carried by bass and drums. The electric guitars disappear, and one quiet acoustic one starts playing a repetitive arpeggio in the background. Then, after a few bars, the rhythm section abruptly ends the funk breakdown, and all we hear is the acoustic guitar. A xylophone appears in the background, as does some running water and a whole bunch of ambient studio sounds that appear to be someone throwing a tambourine onto the heads of a drum kit repeatedly. This goes on for about two minutes, taking up the entire last half of the song. Then someone unplugs an electric guitar, drowning out the rest of the ambient noise we've been hearing for at least 90 seconds with buzzing electrical hum, and that's the end of the song.

Immediately, "Yo Soy Milk" begins, as upbeat and exuberant as "Motivational Song" was at its climax. "Whoa!" howls Peter as it starts, and once again the guitars twine around each other as the rhythm section drives the song forward. This time, one of the guitars is using distortion and sticking primarily to chords, but the other sticks with the undistorted single-note patterns that have become something of a Cadwallader trademark by this point. Unlike "Horror" and "Motivational Song," which have substantive points to make in their lyrics, "Yo Soy Milk" doesn't have that much to say, really. "Peeling grapes in your mouth and feeling tongue in my bones" is about as close as it comes to any defined statement, but nonetheless, Peter's voice sounds passionate and filled with emotion.

That's true of pretty much every song here, though. The album's upbeat title track seems infused with emotion from the first, even though, when you listen more closely, you realize that Peter's telling a story about having his rented aooarel ruined by his prom date. "I bought you a corsage and pinned a flower on my jacket because this night means a lot to me. Then you went and spilled punch all over my tuxedo shirt." Nonetheless, when the chorus arrives, and he starts gasping about how "It's taking me over!" it's nearly impossible not to be swept along with the passion in his voice. Much later, "Katie's Conscious" is driven by frantic drumstick taps on a snare rim, then drops into an incredible half speed breakdown, even as Peter gasps out the relative inanity "Radio rap is back for a reason!" Really?

Who knows? Who cares? This is what matters: Algernon Cadwallader write catchy songs with original structure, heartfelt vocals, and emotion for miles. Their record wears its mid-90s influences on its sleeves and still manages to completely transcend them through sheer quality of the music therein. And right now, when it'd be easy to let myself feel like crap, it's actually helping me feel kinda all right. The bands that can do that for a person are worthy of being celebrated. I'm glad Algernon Cadwallader exist.

[url=http://www.mediafire.com/?qyzyqy5vhnf]Algernon Cadwallader - Motivational Song[/url]
[url=http://www.mediafire.com/?iozdo5v2f5t]Algernon Cadwallader - Horror[/url]



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