Posts Tagged ‘Cairo Gang’

The Cairo Gang

Emmet Kelly puts on a half-cocked smile for his latest, Untouchable. The album’s a sunnier side of The Cairo Gang, but not without a heart melted by melancholy. While the melancholy isn’t unusual in his work, the shiny veneer certainly is. The closest he’s come to some of the breezy moments heard here was back in the days of Tiny Rebel‘s ’60s pop inflections. Though on that one he found the dark heart of the 12-string jangle, balancing any sweet moments with the deep darkness inherit in a cover of Boys Next Door’s “Shivers.” On the contrary here, he’s embracing a ’90s borne indie sound that pays it’s debt to James, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub and The Lemonheads. In fact the Matthew Sweet sip runs twofold, because while Kelly certainly finds himself indebted to Sweet’s songwriting, he’s taking a bite out of the great Robert Quine’s guitar flash. The latter is almost certainly one of the key ingredients in Sweet’s most enduring catalog.

What’s also glaringly apparent about Untouchable is that it’s embraced album oriented rock full tilt, and partially that’s why I’ve been hard pressed to combat this record on a singles basis. Untouchable is not just a collection of tracks, it’s a balance of emotions with the kind of ebb and flow that’s meant to be digested as a whole, not in mere bites. If 2017 has proven anything, it’s that while the majority of listeners have embraced compartmental music and the infinite playlist, a large portion of smaller label releases have striven to create albums that can’t be broken down.

Kelly is an indispensable part of the indie rock pantheon, adding his guitar to more albums than you probably know in your collection (Ty Segall, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Joan of Arc, Magic Trick, The Double) but he shines as a frontman. The Cairo Gang have long been that band bubbling in the background, crafting solidly built albums that trade in ennui like spiritual currency. It’s hardly surprising to get another winner from Kelly, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less deserving of praise. Though the covers change, the fractured heart that beats beneath Kelly’s songs remains ever the same.


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The Cairo Gang

Emmett Kelly’s run as The Cairo Gang has seen him inhabit mostly noir shades, culminating in the brooding ominousness of 2012’s The Corner Man. He broke stride and found his inner Byrds fan on the excellent Tiny Rebels EP from last year, embracing jangle like a second skin. As Goes Missing, opens it seems that perhaps he’s retreated back into the shadows, “An Angel, A Wizard” has those old clouds gathering around its edges, but they part soon enough as the album throws itself headlong into a spiral of bittersweet strums and autumnal overtones. Its a true extension of Tiny Rebels’ air of sighed relief, and the further the album unfolds the more it shows that Kelly can’t be pinned or painted into the genre conventions we’re likely to try put on him. He’s a songwriter at heart and the ebullient grace of his comfortability with emotion comes beaming through this album. Repeated spins show Goes Missing to be a love letter to 60’s folk and the haunted troubadour, but its core is Kelly’s voice, a bittersweet knife right to the heart every time. Among an already stellar catalog, this may rank as one of his best.



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