The songs of The Caribbean are not generally autobiographical. Rejecting “sing what you know” for “sing what you’ve observed and researched,” The Caribbean’s songs continue to advance the founding central terminus of the group: communicating with the mysterious outside world. The tricky part has always been looking outside while conveying the emotion and intimacy of the confessional narrator.
“I wonder if they’ll manage to find all of our half-inch tapes in the dust. Yeah – what a world they’ll hear. They say that I died in 456 and I did, but I begged for a second take; that’s the one they’ll find below. Scientists baked the tapes. Historians stroked goatees in delight: ‘What is this foreign range of sound?’ Yeah – that’s my vocal track.” [THE ILL-FATED COUGAR]
The group\'s focus has always been its fascination with people and places – the wonder of touring is seeing how people live in Louisville or Minneapolis or London, Ontario, walking around at night and, in a non-stalking fashion, glancing at passersby, through windows. The songs on The Caribbean’s new record “Populations” are largely an observational sip through windows and a painstaking report back: through pop hooks. The observations relayed on the new record are, by design and experience, more emotionally direct than in times past.
“Do those yellows look right to you? With nothing here to read. Nothing left but color television and our PhDs, locked onto a summer Sunday night. With no window in sight. Nothing’s right but color television as a reading light. Everyday’s a summer Sunday night.” [COLOR TELEVISION]
Where the music on The Caribbean’s 2005 full-length “Plastic Explosives” is dense and murky, as if the group’s crack staff of social note-takers were hiding in tangled weeds and behind crumbling walls and ripped-up fences to avoid being seen, “Populations” suggests that maybe the note-takers now feel free – even justified – to do what they do: walk around with clipboards wearing white lab coats, but in plain sight. The music echoes that with a sense that the veil has been lifted. There are still myriad sonic details, bizarre guitar tunings, unexplained oddities, dizzying Chad Clark production touches, but there is a cleaner, more liberated vibe on “Populations” than on The Caribbean’s previous records. It is the sound of a group growing progressively more comfortable in its own skin and unafraid of emotional commitment.