Crab Day, the fourth album from Welsh born, Los Angeles based, Cate Timothy – better known as Cate Le Bon – is a love it or leave it proposition. Listeners will either become enamoured with Le Bon’s delicate, yet sturdy, vocals and her quirky approach to song-writing, or find it all a bit too ridiculous and consign it to being pretentious, arty-farty, crap listened to by would-be sophisticates. For anyone already familiar with Le Bon’s oeuvre, and furnished with an opinion on it, Crab Day will not sway you being, as it is, a refinement of the sound of her earlier work.
The album opens with the titular Crab Day which, with its spanky guitar tone, insistent rhythm, and odd melodic lines, reminds the listener of bands such as Ween. The undercurrent of 60’s pop during the song’s pre-chorus creates a laid-back vibe which just feels Californian, indicating that Le Bon’s time in Los Angeles has subtly influenced her sound. If titling a song and album Crab Day doesn’t make it clear that Le Bon isn’t providing the usual pop-rock fare, then the lyrics of lead single Wonderful should dispel any doubt with lines such as “my heart’s in my liver” and “snow made me sad/but your face on rotation”, being delivered against a musical backdrop that sounds like a Desert Sessions track that’ll be turned into a toned down Queens of the Stone-Age song.
We Might Revolve is more accessible than feels natural for a song that so heavily features jangly, dissonant, guitars and a bass guitar that happily skips back and forth over the line that separates rhythm from melody. The songs of Crab Day are brief, punkish, excursions into the unusual, but by the end of the album Le Bon is ready to push the boundaries a little further by entering the realm of drone and repetition. Penultimate track, How Do You Know, spends a third of its run time on an extended outro which repeats an awesomely strong riff just for the sake of it, and the lack of a crescendo proves immensely satisfying. What’s Not Mine extends the approach to How Do You Know’s outro and applies it to the album as a whole, taking just shy of seven and a half minutes to reach its conclusion, all the while feeling like Le Bon is preparing to declare herself a closet stoner-rocker.
Le Bon and Crab Day is not for everyone, and I am sure that many will think Le Bon is being different for the sake of being different, but her brand of oddity is so effortless and natural that it is hard not to be charmed by it, and ultimately succumbing to that charm proves rewarding for anyone willing to invest a little of their time.