Review Summary: Forget Don Cab, this isn't even worthy of the Fucking Champs.
Excluding the fact that I only owned one of their albums, at 16 you probably could have said Don Caballero was one of my favourite bands. Naturally, you could also have assumed that I was a pretty high on Damon Che. And you'd be right, in fact you could go so far as to say I thought he was more or less a god behind his awkwardly set-up kit. If you told me four years ago that Damon Che would eventually be the one to drag Don Caballero's name through the mud, well, I'd probably have a few choice words for you. If you haven't caught on yet, that's more or less exactly what's happened. Don Cab split up, and rather than retiring the name and moving on, Che decided, "hey, why not exploit the name for my own personal gain?!" This is not a direct quote, mind you. So now here we are at Don Cab 2.0's Volume 2, and the second spin with the new line-up continues to find new ways to sully their name, including breaking the once cardinal rule of including vocals, vocals that are not the instrumentalised grunts and shouts of albums' past, but actual lyrics. Singing and all.
Even when they try to stick to tradition, Punkgasm
disappoints. Ian Williams' dissonant and once-trademarked guitar-work is replaced by Eugene Doyle's clearer, borderline metallic tone. Without the element of static, distortion and power, songs like "Loudest Shop Vac in the World" sound puny and homogenised. Attempts at re-creating the traditional Don Caballero sound feel filtered and prefabricated. Furthermore, they're just not fun to listen to. This Don Caballero is essentially Damon Che and a bunch of session musicians, and that's exactly how it sounds. Where an album like What Burns Never Returns
utilized playful and sometimes silly guitar lines to ease the tension, Punkgasm instead plods along with schmaltzy choruses and meandering leads. The lack of playfulness once exhibited by lines such as the playful, imitative take on childish cries of "nananana booboo" stultify the songs into overlong fluctuations between flat-sounding math rock and irritating, seizure-like leads (Bulk Eye). The guitar work gives off vibes of this being nothing more than Damon Che's little playtoy. The bass guitar may well not exist much of the time. With the six and four stringed instruments sounding so by the book, Punkgasm
is little more than Che using the band as a vehicle to work on drumlines and keep his career afloat. "*** Kids Galore" only supports this theory; it's a minute long drum solo. For the uninitiated, Don Caballero was once against solos, going so far as to indicate in the linear notes that there would be as they were "not a jazz band".
's most crucial fault is that it's just so unnecessary. Attempts at playing within the original band's barriers result in trite, cheap sounding knockoffs and the linear, dredge-jr melodious songs are offensive to the band's legacy and flat out mediocre. Granted Punkgasm
is as technically impressive as you'd expect, with the drums being notably above-average, but without the fun little nuances of their past work, the technicality just isn't sufficient enough to keep the album interesting. Don Caballero no longer feels like a unit, primarily because they aren't, and if there's no synchronicity, what's left? Let me answer that for you: an extremely talented drummer playing around at the expense of a once special band. More specifically listeners are left with a choppy, flowless collection of stale sounding math rock songs. In short, Punkgasm
is what's left, and it's pretty damn underwhelming.