Among the frostiest and darkest groups re-imagining and subverting electronic pop, Philadelphia's Cold Cave are perfectly named, and their debut album even more so. LOVE COMES CLOSE could mean love falls tantalizingly short, or that it's too close for comfort; in Cold Cave's world, it does both. Wes Eisold, Caralee McElroy (formerly of Xiu Xiu, whose fascination with heart-on-sleeve lyrics and rudimentary electronics is an unspoken influence on, or at least a kindred spirit to this group) and Prurient's Dominick Fenrow hone in on the bleakest and most romantic aspects of synth pop and industrial music, crafting something equally robotic and emotive. They do so with more range than some of their contemporaries, encompassing soft abstraction, darkly danceable pop, and hard-edged despair without ever sounding scattered. Cold Cave serves up these styles with heroic doses of noise courtesy of Fenrow, who bathes tracks like "Cebe and Me" in so many hissing electronics that they sound like lost transmissions. The band uses noise to particularly beautiful effect on "Life Magazine," where McElroy's fragile vocals echo and bounce off thick sheets of static, and on "I.C.D.K.," which is made all the more harshly dreamy and eerie by its cheap synth tones. While Cold Cave can resurrect the shadowy, gothy '80s like few others -- especially on "Heaven Was Full" and "The Laurels of Erotomania," which sprinkles its chilly desolation with a sparkling melody -- Love Comes Close is most interesting when the band concentrates on its pop instincts. The title track is a standout, sweetening Eisold's Ian Curtis-like refrain "love comes close but chooses to spare me" with the cold comfort of faintly sunny guitars; "Youth and Lust" reworks the band's gloom into Euro-disco with squalid glamour of "neon nights in rain and cold sheets and mattress stains." Even LOVE COMES CLOSE's most brooding moments are clever enough to avoid being completely dour. Eisold has a way with words, especially on "Hello Rats," where the line "you're in bed with a future ex-girlfriend/tellin' lies about emotions or something" is funnier because it's so bleak and bleaker because it's so funny. LOVE COMES CLOSE is a strong debut not just because Cold Cave embraces their darkness so fully, but because they find so many shades within it.
CMJ - "Cold Cave are natural-born experimenters; their revival of the dark side of synth-driven post-punk is a refreshingly overt homage to their predecessors..."