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Cold Cave: Love Comes Close (Matador) 

On Cold Cave's debut, Love Comes Close, the music works as minimalist dance pop, but everything about the way it's contextualized is awful. Essentially, what they're doing is grafting sour grapes onto disco pep. Sonically, they capture the spirit of the endeavor, but the album can't rise above its own basic stupidity.

Though the opening track's title, "Cebe and Me," emptily references a remote Romanian commune, I can't explain how that operates as subject matter, since the lyrics are buried in pulsating white noise that, say, Goldfrapp would use as a segue or mood-establishing device, while Cold Cave seems happy to use it as ... well, nothing. It's just ambience.

The rest of Love Comes Close alternates between stuff as inaccessible as "Cebe and Me" and sassy synth-pop. These latter songs mostly affect a pretty bad Stephin Merritt impression. The title song, essentially a morbid exaltation of love and death set to disco beats, nicely distills the band's lack of imagination. Where a real impresario like Merritt would have used the songs' aesthetic to say something both arch and heartbreakingly true, Cold Cave dishes up the worst clichés of bad poetry: "Silhouettes shy as rain rots the drain / Every day's decay debases the dream."

If you look past its narcissism and vapidity, Love Comes Close succeeds as goth kitsch. It has as much subtlety and nuance as the doodles of cartoon hearts pierced by knives you'd find in the school notebooks of any given self-obsessed teen.

More by Sean Bottai

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