Thursday, June 25, 2015

This New Cairo Gang Album Is A Fabulous Masterpiece

I got sent this album today by one of my reliable promo contacts and saw that Emmet Kelly of The Cairo Gang had worked with Bonnie "Prince" Billy.

"Hmm," I thought. "I'll listen to that later then."

But something -- the fact that it's on Ty Segall's God? Records imprint (via Drag City)? -- got me curious.

So I sat down and spun Goes Missing and was blown away. This is wonderfully melodic music that manages to cover a lot of territory. While "Be What You Are" sounds like Phil Keaggy when he's doing a McCartney impression, "She Don't Want You" mixes in a touch of American AM Gold staples with the crunchy riffs.

Emmett Kelly has an ear for a hook and somehow makes this sort of genre-hopping sound sincere. The closest comparison I could make would be to Young Guv's instant classic Ripe 4 Luv. Like that record, Goes Missing crosses a sort of indie sensibility with a real sense of pop craft.

The wonderfully titled "Gangsters Holding Hands" weaves in a New Order-style bass throb with a vocal line like an old Death Cab for Cutie cut. The combination of those elements, along with a spirited guitar figure, makes this one of the standout tracks on Goes Missing.

For all the references to the worthy power pop precursors, there's also the neo-retro strut of the Hooded Fang-esque "A Heart Like Yours" and the gentle folk of "Some Other Time" in all its Nick Drake-recalling beauty.

What I haven't mentioned yet is that Emmett Kelly's voice makes him sound a bit like Steve Kilbey of The Church on some of these tunes but nowhere more obviously than on the chiming "Ice Fishing" with its Byrds-chords and layered vocals.

Somehow Goes Missing, an album that sounds in spots a bit like the polished record Sebadoh could have made had they wanted to, is the surest throwback to an era of earlier power pop blockbusters as much as it's a lo-fi masterpiece. It's that bridging of so many styles that makes what The Cairo Gang and Emmett Kelly have done here so remarkable. Never once sounding forced, or arched, or too self-aware, the 11 tracks on this LP are all self-contained gems. Big swaths of gloriously catchy choruses rub up against polished bits of studio wizardry and the overall effect is as if Todd Rundgren had somehow fronted classic era Let's Active for a spell.

I'm out of ways to describe this sort of thing so I urge you to get on board with The Cairo Gang as soon as you can.

Goes Missing by The Cairo Gang is out now on God? Records via Drag City.

Follow The Cairo Gang on their official Facebook page.