Late Cambrian – Golden Time Review

I’ll say it right off the bat; Late Cambrian set the bar so high with their own brand of intellectual pop-rock on Social Season, Peach and their Converse Rubber Tracks release that I honestly couldn’t imagine where Late Cambrian could possibly take their sound next that would build upon what came before it whilst progressing forward. Golden Time is a stunning record.

When you’re a music artist, you’re only as great as your latest record in the eyes of critics and most fans – and it’s safe to say that Golden Time is Late Cambrian’s best record yet; riding high off of a successful crowdfunding campaign for their latest full-length album called Golden Time, and about to embark on a UK tour with Wheatus, MC Frontalot, and Gabrielle Sterbenz, it really is clear that Late Cambrian are on the up and up in the independent rock scene.

Late Cambrian are very good friends of mine, and prior to me listening to the record, John Wlaysewski told me that my review of Peach influenced some of the choices for Golden Time, this admittedly made me cringe initially, but after listening to the record as a whole I now feel that’s something to be very proud of. The production of Golden Time  is very clean yet packs a raw punch in the right places, it’s rock but with that pleasantly subtle pop polish that retains the balls-to-the-wall attitude of rock whilst giving the audience the modern production values we’ve come to expect from any music artist in 2014.

I’ve always been very impressed with the artwork of Olive Hui (called O by those who know her) after first seeing it on Facebook, she’s very talented and the distinct calming ocean blue artwork of Golden Time is no exception to this; Golden Time‘s artwork tells you a lot about what you’re in for with hypnotic ghostly sketched faces kaleidoscoping from the inside out, this is a nice visual representation of the music itself and very iconic.

Throwing Shade

“Throwing Shade” sounds similar to how I imagine a new record from The White Stripes would have sounded whilst evoking a sound similar to The Strokes’ Comedown Machine album at certain moments. “You say I’m walking away, but who would stay in a house that’s on fire? It’s you that’s throwing the shade, it’s you that’s melting away, it’s me that’s hoping to fall off the wire, ‘cause it’s all that I need” sings John Wlaysewski; the chorus of “Throwing Shade” sent shivers down my spine the first time I heard it and on every time I’ve heard it since.

There is a lot more use of synths on Late Cambrian’s Golden Time, and this time around they aren’t even close to being buried in the mix and are something Late Cambrian is very proud of,  it is a real rarity when a modern rock band can balance a variety of instruments with guitar and make it work without sounding forced. Alex Cohen’s punchy drums of “Throwing Shade” perfectly accompany a very expressive guitar solo contributed by Kevin Salem.

Golden Time

The name of “Golden Time” is from the SAG-AFTRA union’s policy that past sixteen hours of work in one day you are paid a full day’s pay per hour from the sixteenth hour onwards, and this is known as golden time in film industry lingo.

Lyrically, “Golden Time” as a song is one of the best rock tracks I’ve heard all year, it is very simple but with that simplicity comes a certain variety of honesty about life that’s often overlooked and missed with the genre. With lyrical wonder such as “last night I saw you at the club, low lights, bass hit me with a thud, I tried getting you on the floor, you disappeared through the backdoor” and “how can I get through to you, the more you breathe the more it’s true, every last post that you post alone, a tall tale told on a smart phone”, John Wlaysewski’s lyrical storytelling is back and stronger than ever before.

The guitar riffage and synth lines are especially catchy on “Golden Time”. The title track “Golden Time” is going to become a classic and each member of the band shines as an individual here.

Illamasqua

Stunning guitars as always, opening with a nicely toned melodic guitar with an almost ska-punk style groove, quickly chased up with a very catchy drum beat and occasionally punctuated with the chime of what sounds like a glockenspiel, “Illamasqua” is one of the vocal highlights Golden Time with the tight harmonies of the bridge and very complex polyrhythm that evolves throughout the song before descending into kick drum madness and an abrupt yet fitting end to such an intense song.

“Illamasqua” ventures into almost math rock territory with the guitar riffs and overall structure of the song itself. I can’t help but dance to “Illamasqua”, the synth melody and sound wouldn’t be out of place in a Sonic The Hedgehog game on the Sega Genesis (or MegaDrive depending on which side of the pond you’re on).

British makeup manufacturer Illamasqua Makeup is referenced in the title of the track. John Wlaysewski said that this song is about being proud of who you are, and also references the gay rights movement (“walk your parade”). John showcases his ability to rhyme unusual words such in the line “light shade, masquerade, eye illusion, serenade, don’t let them take what you want!”. Carl Li contributes to the group chants on “Illamasqua”, who interestingly is also the executive producer for Golden Time.

Game Show

“All I did was expand all my limits, I didn’t really think before I tried, all I did was forget that you need me, are you really asking me to lie? There was something in their eyes, and something in the water they gave me, there was something in their mind saying you can’t go it alone, all I did was believe they were human, I took ‘em at their word that this was good, signed in blood, there was wine, there were women, I drank it all like any human would…”

“Game Show” perhaps Late Cambrian’s most ambitious song on Golden Time with a seeming sci-fi twist to it, notably not the first time Late Cambrian has had a song I which someone has had non-human qualities as was first shown in “Walk of Shame” with the line “brain fried, eyes wide like a drunk ET I held your gaze”. This is really interesting musical and lyrical territory I would really love to see Late Cambrian come back to at some point in this indirect and obscure way, but not take it to a level of something like “Aliens Exist” by Blink 182 even if that song is lyrically great, this style of writing is especially interesting and open to interpretation.

“Something in my heart knew the papers that I sign would betray me, the rumours that you spread, they would lock me in my home and I played my life like a show, turning it on for you all, turning it on for the blow, so come on, come on, let go…”

The lyrics of “Game Show” seem a lot like a deal gone bad perhaps a record deal or something related to acting. The combination of synths and vocals hit upon a certain aesthetic that reminds me of what I liked about Owl City’s production, yet there’s a few moments where vocally John Wlaysewski wanders into a territory trod by Billy Talent vocally.

The guitar riff for “Game Show” is seriously amazing, the tone is exceptional and really compliments the complex arpeggiated synths and drums, this is really impressive on so many levels, and Nunzio Moudatsos really does shine as Late Cambrian’s bassist on “Game Show”.

NOW

After a lengthy instrumental intro, as pop-rock goes, John’s falsetto softly enters the mix singing very clever lines and features use of the word “frenemy” which brought a smile to my face, “NOW” is definitely a romantic song, with lyrics such as ““oh god I never loved you like I loved you before” but particularly the line “let’s take a train to Court Street Station and make it something more” as John believes it is possible to get married there. Carl Li again contributes to the group chants of “NOW”.

The smooth mix of guitars, bass, synth, vocals and drums could have easily been a demo for an early Maroon 5 track, but an unexpected acid bass synth dropped into the mix adds that trademark Late Cambrian unexpected non-traditional musical exploration we’ve come to love them for, the song progresses into something very complex yet everything sits so well in the mix. I doff my metaphorical hat to Carl Li for his work on “NOW”.

Objects May Appear

“All my friends, all my lovers, I never really let them go, never really let them go, and I may seem like I’m a loner, it isn’t really what I wanted, I never really tried to go, it’s plain to see the party’s over and everybody needs to go, everybody needs to go, you granted me, your sweet dishonour and even as your tears are falling, I never really hit the wall…”

The vocals of O take the centre stage on the second verse of Objects May Appear, O has a very different yet very complimentary voice to John’s. Lyrically “Objects May Appear” is a very simple song lyrically, but minimalism is the ultimate in sophistication, the lyrics that are in “Objects May Appear” are powerful, meaningful, and O’s unexpected verse singing the same verse as John keeps things fresh, especially when punctuated with Late Cambrian’s group vocals on the chorus have a similar aesthetic to Franz Ferdinand.

Alex’s drumming is strong on “Objects May Appear” with nice use of the kit and solid rolls.

DYBIL

“Do you believe in love? I believe in love…”, I honestly can’t wait to dance to this one live in October. “DYBIL” makes use of resampled guitar, and it works surprisingly well for Late Cambrian before exploding into a rich mix with a disco vibe that will definitely appeal to the Daft Punk crowd, Late Cambrian really gives Justice a run for their money with “DYBIL”, I personally found it remarkable how well Late Cambrian’s voices harmonize so well together, it’s really rather delightful to hear John, Nunzio and O singing throughout Golden Time, but “DYBIL” particularly stands out as it is so unusual — this is a song by a rock band that’s actually dancefloor-ready.

Montauk (featuring Angie Hart)

“The car smells good, I warmed it up for us, we’re just waiting for princess as usual, Gene’s got a map and a compass in his bag, though everyone has GPS he still never forgets, and you’ve got cigarettes, and I’ve just got regrets and a bottle for your ash, and it feels so fine to do this one more time…”

The storytelling of “Montauk” is second to none and very moving, clearly about the loss of a loved one, I love John’s very honest style of song writing, I also really love the tone of the acoustic guitars on “Montauk”, Alex’s drumming is lively and adds a really special feel to “Montauk” when they come into the mix. Angie Hart’s vocal performance is superbly emotive before ascending into another chorus punctuated with vocals from the whole band.

Shiny Cars

Golden Time ends with an uplifting number called “Shiny Cars”, I can see Late Cambrian finishing their sets on the upcoming tour with this song. “You and I are a special thing; young love and the bitterest of stings, round and round we drove round, ‘til every face all looked the same, you and I, foolish pride (I don’t know how to love you)”, another song on Golden Time that gave me the chills with bittersweet lyrics reminiscing about love.

The drum machine and ring modulation of “Shiny Cars” sound almost like something Aphex Twin could have done at one point in the song, and that’s a big compliment to play with effects and have them sound musical as well as aesthetically pleasing whilst remaining interesting and unexpected. The electronic drum pattern on the bridge of Shiny Cars, bassline, synths and soaring vocals all combine to create a powerfully emotive climax to Golden Time, O’s vocals here are nothing short of haunting, the combination of John, Nunzio and O’s vocals makes “Shiny Cars” a really beautiful song. “It wasn’t you, it was me!” exclaims John as the album hits its final high point before the mix gradually winds down and ends leaving me wanting another outstanding album from Late Cambrian very soon — in the meantime I’m going to listen to the album once again!

Verdict on Late Cambrian’s Golden Time

Featuring a real mixture of genres and a varied sonic palette, Late Cambrian has once again created an excellent record with their signature sound running throughout, just when I thought it had all been done and bands were being reduced to bringing back the nu metal sound but with boy band Auto-Tune’d vocals this time around, Late Cambrian goes and rebuilds my faith in the rock scene as a whole; a band with their own vision and sonic identities as musicians.

I’ve proclaimed rock to be dead several times in the past five years in terms of originality, but Late Cambrian has consistently trodden fresh sonic territory and honestly shocked me, rock isn’t dead; we are living in the golden age with records like Golden Time available for everybody to hear. It’s very rare that I’m moved by anything but tragedy or undying loyalty, but Late Cambrian’s Golden Time is a very moving record, as was Peach very frequently. If the success of a piece of art is measured by whether or not it makes you feel anything then Golden Time is a massive success to my ears; at any point there’s a sad line then there’s an uplifting one quickly following up.

Late Cambrian is an incredible band with clearly eclectic influences very similar to mine, though I’ve now learned to throw any expectations out of the window when it comes to Late Cambrian because they will shatter them and take their music to places you could have never predicted; whatever you thought their music was going to be like is exactly what it isn’t going to be like. Golden Time offers something for everybody and this format of mixing genres sounds with a connecting sonic thread running throughout the release works perfectly for Late Cambrian, I’m especially excited to see what comes next, the band are a evidently a superlative team with excellent taste when it comes to production and song writing.

Golden Time has captured the love and adoration of several of my friends from the electronic scene who don’t consider themselves to be into rock music, Late Cambrian have real crossover appeal with their excitingly classy and intelligent sound that appeals to a very wide demographic, Late Cambrian are one of the few rock bands I would define as being adult and not trapped as being a band for angst-ridden teens, they are relevant to any audience as they make real music with real lyrics and don’t rely on obscenities or screaming. It’s great to hear Late Cambrian continue to take risks with tracks like “DYBIL” and also continue their love of mixing in non-traditional instruments into the rock mix with effects that would be more commonly found in an electronic track, the use of the Korg Volca synths was something I certainly didn’t expect in a rock mix and it works exceptionally well.

The mix itself on Golden Time is one of the smoothest pop-rock mixes I’ve heard in a long while with no muddiness, a clearly defined bottom-end and very nice panning choices throughout, this is why going digital and leaving tape behind is worthwhile because it opens the door to clear mixes and new ideas that just aren’t possible any other way rather than rehashing what has been done for the past few decades.

I’ve heard the thirty-eight minute record well over a dozen times whilst writing this review and I’m still finding new things to love about Golden Time. John Wlaysewski’s voice and guitar has come so far and Golden Time is a testament to his abilities, he has come a very long way since his previous band called Flying Machines, which as you may already know, was very awesome in its own right. Late Cambrian as a whole has also come a long way and get more contributions from each member on each sequential record, I find it phenomenal to be able to listen through their discography and hear the progress they make with every release as musicians.

Creating a spellbinding record doesn’t take millions of dollars or a team of hundreds, Late Cambrian prove that a sensible crowdfunding goal and a gifted team who share the same values can create timeless music, ultimately I feel that Golden Time is going to be a record referenced years from now as it doesn’t adhere to any trends within the music industry that could date it and Jesse Cannon did a top-notch job of the mastering for Golden Time. This is truly one of my favourite records of the year, Late Cambrian have outdone themselves — and the majority of the record industry. Late Cambrian’s latest offering with Golden Time has a sound that a lot of artists are going to be chasing because it is the logical next step for rock to coexist alongside the boom of electronic dance music with an overlap of familiar elements and structure from both scenes.

You can pre-order Golden Time today from their PledgeMusic crowdfunding page before the release of Golden Time in November.

Make sure to buy your tickets to the UK tour, I’ll be hanging out in Liverpool with Wheatus and Late Cambrian when the bus gets in, this is one of my dream tours in terms of artists and one I’ve spent several years eagerly anticipating, you definitely do not want to miss this!