The Sea and CakeCan’t hear the car alarm
The first rule of Chicago’s the
Sea and Cake is do no harm. After 14 years (including a three-year
hiatus), they’ve achieved a level of consistency only Calexico or
Quaker Oats could rival. Like Car Alarm’s monochromatic cover, you
have to work to see the variations. “Fuller Moon” uses steel drum
to follow the guitar line, and the rolling arpeggiated squiggle
of “Weekend” is one of few electronic touches. Each instrumental
blends into the song, never drawing attention to its exotic presence.
The band is always tasteful, but ultimately its gentility does The
Sea and Cake no favors. Singer Sam Prekop’s whispered voice turns
even conflicts (“Pages”) and complicated situations (“Down In
The City”) into brunch soundtracks. Maybe all of Car Alarm is about
conflict, but Prekop glides and sighs over every vowel, making it
difficult to hear what he’s saying or to detect a hint of tension
beneath the gloss.