It's funny to think that a seasoned hardcore vocalist, eager to make new music on his own but unable to play guitar, would turn to synths and produce something that sounds like this, but that's precisely what Wesley Eisold has done here. Along with Caralee McElroy (Xiu Xiu) and Dominic Fernow (Prurient), he's made Cold Cave's full length debut, Love Comes Close, an impressively well textured, cold, and robotic sounding effort.While he might be somewhat out of his element, you'd never be able to tell listening to this. Gloomy hooks are abound, and the whole affair reeks of eighties, but surprisingly enough Eisold manages to avoid sounding derivative and predictable. Hell, one track in particular sounds more or less like New Order covering Q Lazzarus' Goodbye Horses (made famous by that HOT scene from Silence of the Lambs); if that can come across as genuine, then you know you've got something worthwhile on your hands.
From the very beginning, the name Cold Cave is proven to be quite appropriate. The incredibly icy and detached aura is immediate, even before the distorted vocals and dark, fuzzy synths really come into play. Slightly abstract opener Cebe and Me is littered with frosty bleeps, hissing feedback, and a continued steady hi-hat until a sudden ending. Abruptly following is the previously referenced title track, which is the spitting image of early New Order but with its own, distinct flavor. Its slightly upbeat yet cold, mechanical sound prevails for most of the album, but does relent just enough to keep from being overbearingly melancholic.
A trio of strangely danceable numbers (maybe zombie-looking-kid-from-the-Peanuts type dancing, but still) are tastefully scattered throughout, providing attractive decoration that doesn't detract from the overall mood. Life Magazine is dominated with blasting yet insulated sounding feedback and very catchy hooks with echo heavy vocals reminiscent of Crystal Castles. Sitting smack dab in the middle of Love Comes Close is Heaven Was Full, an almost gratingly goth sounding slab of synth pop, but with a psychedelic flair (and enough going on overall) to keep it sounding fresh, and uncharacteristically... well, lively. Right before the debut ends is Youth and Lust, a strong number with the Ian Curtis sounding vocals being buried under the heavy synths and steady beat and trading off with McElroy's spoken spots. The musical chorus is very representative of Cold Cave's sound; mnemonic of the eighties while sounding far too futuristic to actually fit in with anything from the era itself. I.C.D.K. closes things out very well, picking right up where Youth leaves off with its chopped up vocals and electronic twang.
Of course, there are stumbles here and there, but nothing outright bad. The Laurels of Erotomania is repetitive, but more importantly significantly weaker with hooks than the other songs. It's layered well enough to stay interesting, but the high pitched synth lines over the never ending and incredibly simplistic backing synth sound too video gamey to sound well produced, but not video gamey enough to give itself much character. The Trees Grew Emotions and Died suffers from the same problem, too much repetition and not enough character, and it feels longer than its four minute length. Again, neither is really a bad song, but they really can't compare with all the compelling material being offered elsewhere on the album.
Love Comes Close isn't a perfect album (or even debut for that matter), but it demands more than a simple glossing over. There is plenty to be enjoyed here, and plenty to be found upon the second and third listening. Even more than the largely clever songwriting is how well the overall sound is handled; not once does Cold Cave come across as trying to cash in on the eighties revival trend, or even give off a more than passing similarity to their contemporaries in the genre. It ain't gold, but it's still a great listen that will stay with you for a while.