Last Call

If not for Cable, there may have never been Isis…or Red Sparowes. Bassist Jeff Caxide played on Cable’s eponymous 1996 debut then left to join Isis. Cable’s influential 1999 album Gutter Queen was release number 26 on a then-fledgling indie label in Boston called Hydra Head. Many noisecore bands copied Cable’s formula for success, and some, with the right PR push and radio play, overshadowed their masters left in the lurch. So when these Connecticut noiseniks finally broke up for good last year (as opposed to their patented ‘indefinite hiatus’ after nearly every album), they would’ve gone out with merely a whimper if not for the Last Call CD/DVD sounding the official death knell. The 15-track CD is a true career cross-section: one new song, a hearty six-pack from their final show, one song from each of their seven studio releases, and one fan-recorded live nugget. The DVD boasts the obligatory live set plus a fascinating hour-long documentary that chronicles the rise and fall of the Cable empire.

The title track is the new one, and much like Nirvana’s unearthed swan song “You Know You’re Right,” it’s quite poignant for all the right reasons: immediately recognizable yet haunting guitar chords, agonized-by-life vocals, and plodding drum beats that have been honed to a sharp edge by ignoring the trends. The live set (from a late ’04 benefit show at CBGB’s) is utterly tight and reportedly the most jaw-dropping of that night. Most of the six cuts are culled from their most recent album, 2004’s Pigs Never Fly (with “It’s My Right to Be an Asshole” and the title track being particularly incisive), though older tracks “The Sunday Driver” and “Missoula” dovetail perfectly with their newer, syrupy sound. Bassist Randy Larsen nails down the low end with railroad stakes on the studio track “Human Landfill” (from Pigs) and “Battle of the Asses” (from 2003’s Never Trust a Gemini), and guitar duo Bernie Romanowski and Ben Cowles show off their Southern-rock chops on “Buy Me a Drink” (from 2001’s Skyhorse Jams) and the inimitable “Black Leather Mustache” (from 2001’s Northern Failures). The Craw-like “Clinton St. Blues” (from Gutter Queen) and “Wireless” (from 1996’s Cable) offer a slice of their early sound that defined noisecore in the late ’90s, and a video-camera bootleg of “Gutter Queen” exemplifies the band’s seething volatility.

The DVD’s movie, also titled Last Call, is not only one of the finest documentaries in recent years, but it’s also much better produced than any big-budget MTV/VH1 equivalent on the market. Directed by Ed Ballinger (bassist of label roster mates Slacks!), the film traces the band’s history through interviews with early promoters, friends, and former bandmates. Isis’ Caxide gives a particularly humorous account of Cable egging on the Dillinger Escape Plan to the point of violence. Playing dive bars, sleeping on floors, and living the life of the rock ‘n’ roll pauper is/was the status quo for Cable, and it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for its members. In the meantime, however, Last Call may be the most perfect and definitive retrospective of a truly great band.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
April 27th, 2007


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