What a complex experience this is, modern poetry set in the back seat of a roaring rock ‘n’ roll muscle car. The effect, as Cavalcade unfolds, is at first very visceral and then deeply illuminating.
Cold Satellite leader Jeffrey Foucault has given over the lyric writing to contemporary poet Lisa Olstein, whose latest collection Little Stranger will see concurrent release on Copper Canyon Press. Yet Cavalcade — due May 21, 2013 from Signature Sounds — couldn’t be further away from the hippie-dippy expectations that follow such high-concept projects.
Instead, Foucault and a lean, tough group that includes Billy Conway (of Morphine) on drums and David Goodrich (of the Chris Smither group) on guitar play with a direct, bloody-knuckled fury. It’s not until the initial two tracks — “Elegy” and “Necessary Monsters” — have blown your hair straight back that Cold Satellite stops for a quick exhalation in the form of the title track and “Careless Flame.” Even there, however, the songs are hardened, countrified ruminations in the style of the Rolling Stones’ Exile period.
Later, “Glass Hands” offers another brief respite, a broken-winged moment of raw emotion.
Before long, though, Cold Satellite is back to sawing on its instruments again, in brilliant counterpoint to a carefully fashioned group of narratives that are by turns elliptical and involvingly cinematic. “Pearlescent,” a song of glowing menace, sets the stage for serrated fury of “Silver Whips.” Everything comes crashing down around “Tangled Lullaby,” in a moment of tornadic reminiscence, before Cavalcade draws to a close with a final crepuscular moment of introspection — like the oddly sensual smell of ozone after a lightning strike.
Only on repeated listenings do you begin to grasp the complexity of Oldstein’s contributions, so filled with wonder and fear, darkness and light. Cold Satellite’s Cavalcade — part Crazy Horse, part e.e. cummings — just seems to get better with each successive spin.