The Sea and Cake – Car Alarm

The Sea and Cake
Car Alarm

By The Sea And Cake’s own slothful standards, Car Alarm comes as a relatively rapid follow-up to last year’s somewhat re-energised Everybody LP. Yet, anyone expecting a far-reaching sonic reinvention is clearly not a realistic long-term fan of Sam Prekop’s well-drilled foursome. In cruder terms, Car Alarm is essentially Everybody II; an album that subtly stretches the group’s formulaic parameters with rawer production and looser instrumentation but without cementing any concrete boundary-changes.

Such reticence to dramatically subvert The Sea And Cake’s patented sound isn’t necessarily a bad thing of course. The shimmering space-funk-pop of “A Fuller Moon” and “Window Sills” connects comfortably with the ensemble’s post-2000 repertoire, as does the mid-tempo jazz lolling of “Down In The City” and “Pages.” Though sat next to some more imaginative and tentative steps away from the norm, there is an unshakable and slightly dulling sense of déjà vu reducing the value of such ‘by-the-book’ tracks.

So, as with Everybody, the deepest delights here come from gentle shifts sideways. Hence, the power-chord chug of “Aerial” brings a little of the quartet’s kinetic on-stage zest into the studio; the deliciously fizzy synths of “CMS Sequence” provide a welcome flashback to the wordless interludes inside The Fawn; the busy electro burble behind “Weekend” gives a neat twist to the band’s well-oiled rhythmic undertow; the gnarly guitar twiddling within “New Schools” and the title-track sprinkles a pinch of darkness over the usually summery surfaces; and the glistening steel drum-soaked instrumental “Mirrors” adds on a bewitchingly elegiac finale to the whole affair.

Evidently, Car Alarm is more of a consolidator than an innovator set. However, if there were to be a bit more bravery in the rule-bending then we might eventually gain another ground-breaker akin to 1994’s eponymous debut, 1995’s Nassau or 1997’s The Fawn. Until then, this should keep The Sea And Cake in the game with just enough agile new moves to stop the joints seizing-up or wearing-out from repetition.