I can remember being in high school, pondering the cyclical nature of fads, and thinking to myself, “Man, I hope the ’80s never make a comeback.”
Of course, my naïve adolescent fear has come true — in spades. Just spend a little time with a sixth-grader if you aren’t sure. There’s no doubt the decade that brought us the Yugo, parachute pants and “popped” collars is back, but I’m finding that’s not such a bad thing. In retrospect, there were many good things about the ’80s — rattails and pegged pants notwithstanding — and it seems Wesley Eisold, the creative force behind the band Cold Cave, has turned digging for those things into an art form.
In fact, the word “band” is not quite right for what Cold Cave is. Experiment is more appropriate. From the homemade grittiness of the early Cold Cave EPs to 2011’s full-length and fully realized “Cherish the Light Years,” Eisold is clearly discovering his sound as he goes, creating a sort of stream of consciousness set to dark, new-new wave noise rock.
Everything Eisold does seems to have an experimental air about it: from his publishing venture, Heartworm Press, where he publishes what he calls “overlooked” writers, to his enlisting the professional provocateur Boyd Rice as tour mate.
Rice became a media curiosity in the ’80s after appearing in an issue of Sassy magazine with notorious neo-Nazi leader Bob Heick. He is also a musician — of sorts — recording and performing noise rock under various monikers, including NON and Death in June. Since the late ’70s, Rice has also been thumbing his nose at squares and subverting conventions in mostly humorous ways. Representative example: his magazine Modern Drunkard, a bi-monthly publication with a strong Internet presence, including an archive of articles with titles such as “Diary of a Dipsomaniac” and “Do You Want to Get Fired?”
Asked about his choice in Rice as tour mate, Eisold is matter-of-fact: “We’ve worked together for years. I produced some songs on his last album and released a few of his books. He played with Cold Cave and wanted to play the Eno role to our Roxy Music.”
As Cold Cave rises in critical stature, Eisold seems to be making a point of grave-digging overlooked talent from the ’80s as he ascends. London May of Glen Danzig’s transitional-but-influential band Samhain, is another good example. And for his current tour, Eisold has dug up Douglas J. McCarthy, former member of ’80s industrial heavyweight Nitzer Ebb.
But Cold Cave, the band (or experiment), does not suffer from Eisold’s necromancy. The sound that rises from his conjuring is complex, dark and appealing. It’s just experimental enough to be interesting without sacrificing musicality. Bowie’s less-poppy stuff or early The Cure comes to mind. Vocally, Peter Murphy and Nick Cave are fair comparisons.
The son of a career Navy dad, Eisold grew up all over, even spending some of the early ’90s in Jacksonville.
“I lived in Mayport for a couple of years. I loved it. Growing up in a military family, you never knew where you would end up, so moving to the beach where there was lots of counterculture, skating, punk, etc. … seemed like a godsend.”
Eisold landed in Boston as a young man and got involved in the huge hardcore/straight-edge scene there, hooking up with local heroes Blood for Blood, Ten Yard Fight and In My Eyes. He spent some time as a roadie, and eventually formed a band with some friends: American Nightmare (later renamed Give Up the Ghost). They were well-received, signed to Equal Vision Records (founded by legendary vegan/Krishna guru Ray Cappo) and built a solid reputation.
Then, it gets fuzzy. Being a Navy brat, Eisold seems to default to moving to a new town whenever things aren’t working out. Boston, San Diego, Richmond — even Walla Walla, Wash. — before settling in Philadelphia.
But in Philly the plot thickens. While living there, Eisold discovered that Paul Wentz of Fall Out Boy had availed himself of some of his American Nightmare lyrics for their album “Infinity On High.” They settled out of court. Financially flush and tired of putting lyrics to other people’s music, Eisold started his own band and, in 2007, Cold Cave was born.
They’ve toured a couple times since their inception in Philly and, since many of the transitory band members live in New York, the band has since uprooted and transplanted there.
The Meaningful Life Tour kicked off Aug. 2 in Brussels, Belgium, and comes to Jacksonville Sept. 10 at Jack Rabbits. When asked if he’s looking forward to being in Europe this summer, Eisold seems casually excited.
“I’ve been a few times with Cold Cave, but it’s been a couple of years now … and I lived in Germany for a few years in the ’90s. Everything is really intimate all of a sudden. It feels like I’m hand-delivering the music at this point. I just played in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Nepal, all over the U.S. and Russia. … I’ve got plenty to write about after that.”