Cloak Ox: Prisen EP Review
Andrew Broder is a wily character, a songwriter who has shown repeatedly his ability to write a catchy song who none the less has seemed more inclined to take the road less traveled on much of his material. Lyrics are often a jumbled mess, either tangled webs of non-sequencers or just outright gibberish, many times matched blow for blow by the eccentric, post-everything, alt rock on opiates music that he tends to lean on. Well, Broder is back with some old buddies in his new project Cloak Ox and he has changed his tune. The Prisen EP, the debut recording from the foursome (also featuring scene stalwarts Mark Erikson, Martin Dosh and Jeremy Ylvisaker) is more focused, streamlined and less obtuse, but it loses none of the quirks that have made Broder’s previous work so enjoyable and is one of the very best debuts the local scene has produced this year.
Prisen is a six song EP of classic rock via alt rock with some (relatively) straightforward, impassioned singing and lyrics from Broder. We previously talked about the funky “Vacuum Cleaner” to the driving “Artist at the Door,” and the (almost) title track “Prison,” all of which show the patchwork quilt of sound the group is working with. Luckily for fans of the band, the second half of the EP is as strong as the first half the group released. EP opener “Allahyouakbar” sounds a lot like a Fog track before breaking down in the guitar heroics of Ylvisaker, which is a common scene over the course of the album. “Wax Museum” has a country gallop on acid feel to it, with a low key strut never breaking into the sonic freakout that listeners have generally expected from Broder, which again shows that maturation of his sound. While previously there may have been a freakout for freakouts sake, Broder and co. let this serene track play itself out within the confines of where it fits. The last track is “My Papa,” which is a heartfelt lament to a father who ties your tie and tells you to leave it tied because he might not always be around. It is an emotional track, with brooding bass and caustic guitar lines meshing with Broder singing “I will not always be here for you” to a stunning effect.
I have said this many times before, but when your biggest complaint about an album is that it is too short, they obviously have done something right. The collection of talent on this album is stunning, but we have all see before that talent and prestige doesn’t mean shit if the ideas and passion are there. While Prisen may not be as instantly as eccentric as Fog or as lushly ambient as Dosh or as purposely obtuse as Why?, The Cloak Ox has a sound that is both their own and easily digested. They have cut their teeth enough to know that weird is cool, but having that groove, that sound, that feeling in the song is sometimes worth more than all of the chord changes and looping pedals in the world. While I genuinely hope that these four players keeping doing their awesome other work, they clearly have found a space in The Cloak Ox that where they can maximize their energies, strangely enough by minimizing their sound and boiling it down to the core necessities. Only guys with their credentials would rock out an art studio with CCR covers, and that audacity to do what they want is all over Prisen and helps make it the commanding and enjoyable album that it is. Order the EP from Totally Gross National Product HERE.
Catch the band tonight (9/30) at the Loring Theater with a great linup including Seawhores, Kill the Vultures and Tender Meat