Boston's Cave In jumped to RCA and the world of big-time promotion for Antenna, but it's satisfying to hear that their intelligently warped sound has kept its teeth in the transition. Since its inception in 1995, the band has experimented with bizarre free jazz, hair-raising thrash metal, lengthy progressive rock epics, and sweeping proto-ambient guitar modernism. For Antenna, the band worked with the versatile Rich Costey, who has produced everyone from Rival Schools and Audioslave to Jurassic 5 and Philip Glass. Unlike too many major-league producers, Costey didn't grade off Cave In's sound in a quest for popular appeal. Instead, he tightened the confines of the songs without scrimping on Cave In's taste for lyrical and guitar grandeur, or the occasional twinge of metal. Ever since the great leap forward of 2000's Jupiter, Cave In has drawn comparisons to Radiohead. It's certainly true (Antenna's "Inspire" owes a large, large debt to "Paranoid Android"), but it's Foo Fighters' synthesis of metal, punk, and pop that might be Antenna's biggest touchstone. In fact, the single "Anchor" sounds like Foo Fighters covering an imaginary track from OK Computer. The comparison runs deeper. Before his re-emergence as the Foos' fearless leader, Dave Grohl was, of course, Nirvana's drummer. But even before that, Grohl played in Washington, D.C., hardcore outfit Scream. The stylistic twists and turns of Grohl's career somewhat mirror those of Cave In, at least in the sense that both the band and the man have always been willing to seek out new sonic adventures. Grohl must have realized this; Cave In toured Europe with Foo Fighters in early 2003.
Samples of each Cave In revolution appear on Antenna. After the relatively straightforward, ethereal rock of the record's opening salvos, "Beautiful Son" takes a left turn into a grassy Brit-pop meadow, only to be followed by the nine-minute prog anthem "Seafrost." In the latter third of the album, "Rubber and Glue," "Youth Overrided," and the somewhat sub-par "Penny Racer" are tightly arranged platforms for Stephen Brodsky's vaguely Brandon Boyd-esque vocals. Throughout, unique, skittering guitar lines recall Jupiter and 2002's Tides of Tomorrow EP, while refusing to let Cave In be railroaded by genre-specific record-industry marketing. Like both Radiohead and Foo Fighters, Cave In is a stylistic chameleon that rarely uses its freewheeling taste as a crutch to present self-indulgent material. That said, only one nine-minute song was a good idea, since it's difficult to sell King Crimson to the kids.