Review Summary: Caution drops any hint of metal in favor of a skate punk meets industrial sound that ends up being an excellent take on the digital hardcore formula.
Left Spine Down’s debut album, Fighting For Voltage
, was a pretty good dose of digital hardcore that mainly suffered from a severe case of homogeneity. A lot of the individual songs kicked some serious ass, but as a collective they were all built around the same wall of power chords and featured very similar beats (a constant transition between jungle and a barrage of double bass) which caused the album to get repetitive very quickly. It seemed that the band’s intention on that album was to bash the listener from the beginning to the end, and they succeeded at the expense of actual song dynamics. With that in mind, it was a total surprise when their second album, Caution
, began with a whisper and not a roar. In fact, “Troubleshoot” never even comes close to the aggression of the previous album. Instead, it is actually kind of mellow and extremely melodic – sharing much more in common with industrial-tinged alt. rock than industrial metal. The thing is that it works really well and prepares the band’s fans for an album that is diverse, dynamic and features a much stronger sense of direction and songwriting acumen.
Most of the songs on Caution
aren’t as subdued as the opening track, but they never veer into metal or hardcore territory. Instead, a lot of them seem to be built on a 50/50 split between raucous skate punk and electronic/industrial, with emphasis given to a multitude of catchy melodic elements and strong, punky choruses. The skate punk is mainly found in the dirty, groovy riffs and snotty vocal delivery, but it has the potential to sneak into the beats too (as heard on songs such as “The Truth is a Lie”). The industrial and electronics play more of a melodic supporting role with a multitude of undulating synth lines, various samples, keyboard melodies and a collection of techno and jungle beats. In addition to the opening track, a stronger alt. rock influence finds its way into a few of the other tracks as well, providing a welcome change from the faster paced songs. The most noticeable of these is the song “On the Other Side.” This song begins with a slightly awkward beat and has a very noticeable Brand New
influence (Deja Entendu
era) in the melodies and vocals. This influence becomes even more noticeable when the song picks up on the second half, and really shows off the band’s new-found diversity.
Despite the quality found on the first part of the album, it is really the songs following “On the Other Side” that really shine. The songs near the beginning of the album try to balance the electronics with the punk, but the second half embraces the punk rock wholeheartedly. Beginning with “Stolen Car” the band pushes the skate punk beats (augmented by a bit of jungle) and riffs to the forefront and the vocals drop a bit of the processing that occasionally weakens the early tracks. This minor adjustment really seems to increase the energy levels and also leads to some of the catchiest tracks. There’s the harmonized guitar melody and Orgy
-ish chorus of “From Thirty to Zero” followed by strong melodic punk of “Overdriven” with its cool synth undertones, and it just continues from there ending with the moody and atmospheric title track. This track returns a bit of that Brand New influence while augmenting it with a stronger collection of electronics and a gloomy ambient undertone. This total change of pace is definitely an interesting way to end an album that had been mostly dominated by an energetic punk vibe up to that point, but it works.
While Left Spine Down’s debut was a cool album, it seriously lacked in a few key areas. Instead of trying to fix the formula, though, the band opted to move towards a more unique sound that is made up of equal parts skate punk and industrial electronics. The result is their great second album, Caution
. This album drops the metal influences and replaces them with a strong sense of melody and a catchy collection of choruses that are turbo charged by the band’s electro-punk delivery. It’s an album that might turn off fans of the previous album, but it really shouldn’t. With Caution
Left Spine Down have stepped into a more unique sound and have crafted a diverse album that will definitely warrant repeated listens.