Back in the day, My Main Man Mike and I conceptualized the music we listened to. There was the ‘Car Crash Song,’ a track so fucking good you forgot what you were doing to disastrous results; there was ‘Yo, Play that Again,’ which seems self-explanatory. There was also the ‘Sun-Drenched.’ Sun-drenched music sounded like a summer evening after being out and about all day, doing something fucking rad. It could be anything, really. In the early 90s, for Mike and I, it was driving around Vancouver in the Mikemobile, a 1982 grey Mercury Lynx with a dodgy stereo and no AC, windows down. This led us to literally all points of the Lower Mainland from Chilliwack to Vancouver, from the US border to Whistler. We listened to A LOT of music.
Shadow Talk, the new album from Chicago rockers Cafe Racer is Sun-drenched music. It is evocative of a warm summer night, finally in the shade, on the porch, in the park, somewhere, beer in hand and just feeling blissed out and happy. This is. laid-back guitar music, with jittery riffs, heavy reverb on the guitars, a bit of feedback and an insistent rhythm section. Michael Santana’s vocals are heavily influenced by Jim Reid of the Jesus and Marychain, but that’s not a bad thing, as it just so happens that Reid was influenced by Lou Reed, and there is no other kind of vocal that really works with this music.
Cafe Racer sport three guitarists, which has only been made legal in select states in recent years: Santana, Adam Schubert, and Andrew Harper. And, at times, such is their hypnotic axe work that it is hard to pull three distinct guitars out of the music, so well do they jive together, and so much a wall of sound do they create. Bassist Rob McWilliams and drummer Elise Poirier provide an assured rhythm section.
The album centres around ‘Exile,’ a blissfully fuzzed out track that is propelled by McWilliams’ bass and Poirier’s drums, the guitars finding ways to snake around them. This is one of the tracks where one needs to listen very carefully to pull each of the three guitars out of the mix, as the rhythm guitar hits this insistent riff and the lead shimmers and shines overtop, occasionally broken up with a beautiful synth bit. It is evocative of the end of Ride’s seminal 1992 album, Leave Them All Behind. And then ‘Exile’ gets its own ‘Outro’ track, which is 3m33s of this blissed out work out of the guitars and the rhythm section.
Shadow Talk is the sound of a band hitting its stride, of fulfilling the promise of earlier work. It is a stunning masterpiece.