Last week on the way in to work I listened to Runner, the new Sea And Cake album. (Well, it’s last year’s album now, but that definitely qualifies as new round these parts.) They’re one of the few remaining groups whose work I’ll buy without question, for old time’s sake; or rather, because it’s too much to relinquish such a link to what I might over-grandly call My Musical Past. They don’t vary much from release to release, but this new one is both a little lovelier and more optimistic sounding than the preceding few. Taking a wild stab I reckon it probably reflects songwriter Sam Prekop falling in love with something if not someone – ‘Harbor bridges’ certainly sounds as lovely as a love song ought. Unlike the last Sea And Cake, I’ve found myself wanting to listen to this one again, straight away; and that said, I want to go back too, and give Moonlight butterfly another chance. Runner has got that XTC-ish, Drums and wires-y feel which has gone and come at least since The biz, and has it in spades, with trilling guitars and rhythms hypnotically folding in on themselves and back out again, as kaleidoscopically, meditatively, propulsively as ever.
I was going to write more about the Sea And Cake, but I’m not sure I really need to, as Kevin has recently written a whole 21 pages on Chicago’s finest (finest, that is, alongside the Impressions / Curtis Mayfield and Terry Callier). They merit that kind of focus as much as Kevin’s thoughts merit reading. Interestingly he stops relating the story at 2003’s Glass EP, which I presume indicates his estimation of the relative worth of the albums that followed it. Diminishing returns? My own view is that Car alarm and Everybody have a lot going for them, as I discovered a while back when I jumbled up the Sea & Cake’s oeuvre and listened to it in random order over a series of days. And while for me Oui remains the peak of their endeavours, I think I’ll always be interested to hear how the Sea And Cake carry on refining their essential Sea And Cake-iness, and Sam Prekop his essential Sam Prekop-iness.