Released nearly a year ago, I’ve only now come across the third album from Melbourne, Australia’s Black Cab, which mysteriously made its way into my iPod and discovered through a quick search of the “Recently Added” playlist.
It was one of those pleasantly surprising moments where you actually pause to discover the unfamiliar sounds emitting from your player because those sounds are quite enjoyable.
Call Signs starts off in a very close-to-the-lace shoegaze fashion, reverberating the ambivalence in a sound reminiscent of the Doves‘ great 2000 release, Lost Souls.
Rather than get caught up entirely in the shoegaze revival which is showing a very welcomed presence as of late, Black Cab adds elements of Krautrock and analog keyboard backdrops. The result is an immediately infectious blend that combines familiar overtones alongside Call Signs‘ almost intentional attempts at a concept record during certain moments.
The album features a bunch of instrumental interludes, ranging from the signal tones that begin sides one and two, to eerie synthesizer passages (the Mute Records-ish “Desden Dynamo” and the Autobahn propulsion of “Sonnenallee”).
When Black Cab begins to speak up, it’s immediate identified with vocalist Andrew Coates’ lethargic baritone. The first full track, “Church In Berlin,” is probably his best vocal contribution and his ego isn’t large enough to want his chops on every note throughout Call Signs.
In fact, he lets Died Pretty‘s Ron Peno handled the mic during “Ghost Anthems,” a jarring departure from the rest of the moody Call Signs. I’ve gotten used to his contribution now and like how the song signals the final third of the record.
But the gem is “Black Angel,” a gentle tribute to Judee Sill, which features a recording of the late folk singer introducing the number. Coates uses less dramatic moan here, opting for a more appropriately weary recitation while guitarist James Lee provides a looped acoustic run. It’s the record’s standout track, and the most unique one to boot, turning against the rest of the album’s electronic leanings into and creating a memorable track of open sky authenticity.
Call Signs is not the kind of album that you’d associate with Australia, but it’s good enough to remind us all that it’s necessary to glance down under to see what signals are being transmitted from that country’s endless roster of talented rock artists.
Video: Black Cab – “Dresden Dynamo”
Video: Black Cab – “Black Angel”