Crystal Fighters

Cave Rave

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Three years after Crystal Fighters issued their debut, Star of Love, a collision of eclectic, engaging, and occasionally unfocused sounds and ideas, the band returned with a streamlined sound and roster on Cave Rave. The trio of Sebastian Pringle, Gilbert Vierich, and Graham Dixon smooth away the rough edges of their debut on this set, crafting a sound that is more focused even as it incorporates not just Star of Love's Basque instrumentation but also Mexican and African elements into sunny, feel-good electro-pop that recalls Yeasayer and Friendly Fires. While the firecracker former vocalist Mimi Borelli is missed, this new sound is just as engaging in a different way, particularly on its vibrant singles. Even without the beachy sound effects, "Wave" would effortlessly conjure visions of summer and vacation, a feeling that extends to the tropical "You & I" and "LA Calling," which sounds a lot more exotic than the City of Angels usually does. All of these songs are a far cry from writing an album based on an unfinished opera written by one of the bandmembers' grandfathers, which Crystal Fighters did on Star of Love, and all of them share a similar rousing mood, whether they lean more toward bittersweet or joyous. Cave Rave is not for those who have even a slight curmudgeonly streak, as the band urges listeners to "feel love inside your heart forevermore" on "Separator" and to "party 'til dawn like a new millennium" on "No Man." At times, the album borders on overdone, as on "Bridge of Bones," a massive power ballad that even includes a gospel choir, but overall, these songs are a fine reintroduction to a band that has worked hard to emphasize its strengths and come up with new ones.

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