Cate Le Bon - Rock Pool

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:8 Release Date:2017-01-27

I blame my parents. Growing up, the only music I was regularly exposed to was easy listening and musical soundtracks. My oldest brother didn’t help much either; offering up only the most easily digestible AM radio hits. Hell, even breakfast cereals betrayed me, giving away freebie cardboard 45s of the Jackson 5 and Bobby Fucking Sherman (you youngsters might have to Google these things). Thus, the seeds of my musical taste were nurtured in the immaculately winnowed soil of pop melodies, and my heart forever conditioned to appreciate musical banality.

When hard rock and punk finally crept in during adolescence, I stayed clear of the dark and menacing end of things, where the Velvets, the Doors, The Pistols, Frank Zappa, or Captain Beefheart lived. Thankfully, Patti Smith (“Because the Night,” to be exact) offered the machete I would use to cut a clearing into the unknown and come to the grateful realization that not all songs had to be three minute and thirty second pop formula. Naturally, when I first heard the EP Rock Pool from Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon, I got a bit reflective. Would I have been able to enjoy this forty years ago? Nope. Yet, that’s exactly what makes this a joyous listen now.

Plaintive guitar strums give way to a synth sound that can best be described as Nintendo-esque on the delightful opener “Aside From Growing Old,” and the title track reminds me of the inventive innocence of 2012’s Vermillion Border from Viv Albertine. “Perfume Days” harkens back to 60s cotton candy pop with a few psychedelic earworms tossed in for spice. Things come to an unfortunately quick end on “I Just Wanna Be Good,” a wistful lament of good intentions carried off by Le Bon’s angelic voice and minimal accompaniment.

Consisting of leftover material from last year’s Crab Day, these four songs have me going back to the rest of her catalog. If these were the songs that made the cutting room floor, how amazing must the stuff be on that album? This is a really good listen. 

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