Don Caballero

Gang Banged with a Headache and Live

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A 2012 release of archival recordings from a 2003 Don Caballero show is in some ways perfect timing. By the time this gig was put to tape, the band had been through years of touring, several lineup shifts, and eventually a dissolution that led to the formation of several new projects including Storm & Stress and Battles. After a brief hiatus, drummer Damon Che recruited some new blood for a re-formed Don Cab, and Gang Banged with a Headache and Live finds that newly reconfigured Don Cab 2.0 lineup blazing through a set of musical algorithms to what sounds like a relatively small club of extremely stoked weirdos and bar hounds somewhere in Chicago. What makes this bootleg-quality live album so relevant is the context of everything that silently grew in the shadows of Don Caballero's influence. Jittery math rock was nothing new, but the particular explosive signatures of both Che's drumming and early guitarist Ian Williams' fingertapping freakouts would inform a whole new sect of up-and-comers by the start of the 2010s. Artists like Hella, Ponytail, Marnie Stern, and many others grew from the mutated seeds that Don Cab planted years prior. Don Caballero themselves were still technically active at the time GBWAHAL was released, but hadn't put forth any new material since 2008's Punkgasm. Listening to the raw footage of this set, one hears two things. First off, the bandmembers are on fire and playing their spazzy little hearts out, pummeling through face-melting versions of tracks from their 1998 masterwork What Burns Never Returns like "Delivering the Groceries at 138 Beats Per Minute" and "From the Desk of Elsewhere Go" and even going back to 1993's For Respect ripper "Belted Sweater" for a slice of Jesus Lizard-in-a-blender speed-freak math rock. The second thing one hears is a band that was about 15 or so years ahead of its time. Throughout the '90s there was no ghetto for the aggressive instrumental hyper compositions of bands such as Don Caballero, Breadwinner, Heavy Vegetable, and the like, so they either lingered in obscurity or were lumped in with bands doing less complex post-rock and emo stuff. By the mid-2000s Lightning Bolt's noisy maelstrom and Deerhoof's calculated prog-pop slightly updated the format that Don Cab had been working in forever, often to bigger audiences. GBWAHAL is Don Cab in top form, hungry as ever, working like a well-oiled machine doing what they'd been doing for many years and would continue to. Their energy is so swaggering it avoids all the pitfalls of stuffy technical virtuosity, coming off instead like a drunken fool cannonballing into the swimming pool while reciting the alphabet backwards. The band was fated to be tragically ahead of its time, but this live document offers something exciting to dissect while listeners keep waiting for the future to catch up with Don Caballero.

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