By Allana Mayer
Don Caballero got a lot of shit two years ago for “reforming” with all new members save the original drummer, Damon Che. I, personally, gave them a lot of shit after seeing them live, wishing they could develop better stage banter while they incessantly retune their damn guitars, and listening to said drummer’s prima-donna rants about the smoking ban in Toronto, and waiting ten minutes longer than I should’ve for an encore so he could finish his cigarette backstage. But hey, habits are hard to break.
Consider that a brilliant segue into what I think of Don Cab in general — it’s hard not to enjoy their very formulaic approach to the genre they pretty much epitomize in contemporary terms. There’s nothing they haven’t done on Punkgasm, or 2006’s World Class Listening Problem (which featured the same revamped lineup), that the original members weren’t doing years before. The guitars are still heavy and angry; they still spend a lot of time in 3/4 and 5/4. The song titles are still bizarre and outrageous, although more concise this time around. There are still a few slower songs on the album, like “Why Is The Couch Always Wet?”, that showcase the ability to make even math-rock seem sensitive, à la Minus The Bear.
The big controversial addition to the sound on Punkgasm is, of course, vocals. “Celestial Dusty Groove” is the first track in Don Cab history with words, and since they’re basically wailing like a generic nu-metal band, it’s not really all that impressive. But it’s hardly offensive, either, and that’s surprising. Unlike Minus The Bear, whose lyrics were the essence of their sensitivity, Don Cab’s chord progressions carry the emotion, while the new lyrics resemble their song titles by way of absolute nonsensicality. Thank god for small blessings: I doubt I could take their screeching guitars seriously if they accompanied them with ruminations on lost love.
I’d advise you to add Punkgasm to your Don Caballero collection if you’ve got one, if for no better reason than to help them purchase more guitars (to lessen all that mid-set retuning). If you haven’t got such a collection, well, I’d get the shit kicked out of me for not recommending What Burns Never Returns over this — and it’d be justified, because the classics are in fact the best. Still, this is a solid record, which was more than most were expecting.