If you were to peg me as a metal and rap guy, I wouldn’t blame you – it’s what I mostly cover here and enjoy listening to the most. But, as you may have noticed, I do take a liking to different things way outside of those realms. It’s fun and challenging at time. To overgeneralize for a minute, you can throw a lot of weight around with metal without saying a whole lot of import and still have a good time. Some rap is hard carried by its production or the charisma of the MC – you still have fun. With something more mellow, more gentle, you need to really hone in on what the artist or band is doing or saying to resonate with it. What effort you put into hearing them determines what you glean from it.
This has been my experience with Social Caterpillar, a band I didn’t know of before we premiered their new track “The River” a few weeks ago. It wasn’t exactly my thing, but I saw some potential for a good time. Our PR dude Toni also saying it’s one of the best albums he’s heard this year made me commit to reviewing Alphabet Crown, an album that is, again, not exactly my thing, but I found a lot to like with it.
More often than not, Social Caterpillar occupy a quieter mode, as if to call to mind their own name’s lack of matured butterfly nature, more introverted and reserved. That doesn’t mean the band doesn’t have moments of noise and directness – Alphabet Crown doesn’t show a meek band, but rather one that knows when to speak up and when to pull back. The song we premiered, “The River”, is a good example of this. Using pensive guitars and a crooning vocal performance, the band set the stage for a poetic cocooning – slow start, but explosive finish replete with strings, burping bass, and more.
“Motorcycle no. 5” (part of an ongoing series of tracks the band have produced) is also rather adept at this, curdling underneath singed and grating synths and guitars to open up the nearly seven-minute until it gives way to reverbed vocal refrains and later some jamming instrumentation that feels like the first half of the song evolved. It’s a great progression, and the guitar melodies toward the end remind me of the arpeggiated melody that plays during the Dracula fight in the original tough-as-diamond-encrusted-nails Castlevania game. I also really like “Motorcycle no. 4”, which is one of the more consistently energetic takes on Alphabet Crown. There’s a lot of melody to it, carried by bass and guitar in a way that’s complementary. It’s very different from “Motorcycle no. 5” and I like that.
“Guillotine For Hope” sits pretty in the middle of the album, appearing to deliver two of the hardest lines of the album: ‘There ain’t no politician that will save your soul/Bust out the guillotines for hope‘. The rest of the track has a soft rollick to it, but as revolutionary-minded as it is – and I love that – it still maintains this jaunty, but peaceful pace, as if we’ve already rid our society of ghoulish politicians and have nothing left but to build a communal world for the people, by the people. Sonically, it’s less a raised fist and more of a hand extending out to lift you up to higher ground where you belong. This is my favorite song, though I admit I was baited pretty hard with the politics of it.
Eight tracks and a bit less than 40 minutes, it’s a fairly lean little project, but not lacking for any action or meat to sink teeth into. It’s practically tailor-made for the encroaching fall weather we have usurping the summer green and heat here in the Northern Hemisphere. Alphabet Crown pairs nicely with fallen, rustling leaves and a cool breeze that brings you right to the bring of chilling under your skin, the curious smell of smoke highlighting the air as clouds roll your direction in the sky and the street lights turn on to illuminate your way home, or maybe away from home? I think this album sounds like both – there’s a comfort to it that can be your home or a place away from it. I like that feeling.
It goes without saying that anyone that ventures regularly into indie, light progressive rock circles – and, you know, likes that sort of thing – will really vibe with Social Caterpillar. I found my own kicks with it, clearly. It’s resplendent with solid, twisting writing that may play with your expectations and shuffles in its own version of diversity and sonic variation that may leave you wanting a bit more, but also appreciating what’s there. You have to meet it on its level, something I pushed myself to do and was handsomely rewarded. Hell, I may even check out some of their earlier stuff too. Alphabet Crown may not be for you, but it is for you – if you let it be.