If you’ve ever been to a dark, and perhaps questionable, club, you’ve no doubt seen this scene. Androgyny embodied, checking his/her eyeliner in the wings of an equally questionable restroom. The artwork in these restrooms is usually like an amplified version of the feel of the venue, as if it functions as the shit-stained, bleeding/beating heart of the space. It’s a place that embodies any sort of love/hate feelings you’ve got for the venue, and a place that can literally take all the misplaced thoughts of the crowd and put them on the walls, staring you in the face when you feel you ought to have at least a shred of privacy.
Cold Cave puts all these elements together on the cover of their debut LP Love Comes Close, whose music has much in common with the piss-streaked graffiti well pictured. Out on the floor, you might not notice anything but the beats, bells and whistles. It works to your advantage when all you want is the purity of dance floor economics. But when you retreat for a moment into the restroom, the flavor of the music changes. The sound system blares muffled through the walls, but ultimately it’s a quieter place where the dancing animals created by those raucous hymns retreat for a few minutes. If the music has a consciousness or any sort of empathy, this is where it lives.
This sample track, titled “The Laurels of Erotomania”, starts with a strong synthy beat, decorated by a skewed sample and a candid cough. The track would function well as an entirely instrumental piece, shifting between two phrases and puncuated by staccato machine noise. But when the chorus kicks in (a resounding and repetitive “People pay attention to me / I don’t know why”) the song takes on a decidedly more meaningful direction, raising questions of the social machinations out beyond the restroom stall.
“Youth and Lust” rings out from the start like a rebooted New Order single with phase-y synth strings and boy/girl call-and-response lite. Like the previous sample track, this one revolves loosely around themes of humanity on the dance floor. Yearning and monotone, both vocalists echo memories of an empty evening out with moody lyrics like, “You miss the disco lights / It’s all pleather now / A synthetic world without end” and mirroring the cosmetics-toting freakshow on the front, tending to dance floor wounds with a make-up brush.
As a final twist, you can see that the compact mirror pictured bears the same type of design as the wall in the background, further blurring the lines between what is and isn’t part of the club. Is that little tool of self-reflection a part of the club scene after all? Maybe the person pictured is truly one with the venue, instead of an intrepid explorer of him/herself. There don’t seem to be any lines to draw.
Artist: Cold Cave
Album: Love Comes Close
Tracklist & Review (Allmusic)