Cairo Gang

Untouchable

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

When the time came to record the fifth Cairo Gang album, Emmett Kelly decided to switch things up. He didn't really need to since the previous album, 2015's Goes Missing, was something of a baroque jangle pop mini-masterpiece. Since he had been moonlighting as a member of Ty Segall's band, it felt like a natural step to work with Segall on Untouchable. The pair headed for Segall's studio and recorded the basic tracks live, with Segall on drums and Kelly on guitar, then filled in the songs with overdubs later. This approach means that Untouchable is the first Cairo Gang album to sound like the work of a band, and having Ty on board led to there being a bit more rock in the folk-rock equation. Tracks like "That's When It's Over" and the live-wire rocker "In the Heart of Her Heart" have a thudding hard rock power, with Segall going wild on drums and Kelly ripping off hot-to-the-touch solos while pushing his voice to the max. The rest of the album benefits from the live sound too, as it gives the jangle some punch, and the duo really dials in some good sounds throughout. Where Goes Missing had loads of Byrds in its DNA, this time around Kelly adds in some Love, copping Arthur Lee's vocal drawl and the band's off-kilter lope on songs like "Let It Gain You" and the snaking "Broken Record." That being said, there are a couple songs on the record that really do sound like they could time-travel to side two of Fifth Dimension and no one would bat an eye. Adding the achingly pristine "Real Enough to Believe" may have made the record even better! The juxtaposition of pretty janglers, moodily melancholy ballads, and tough rockers makes the album the richest Cairo Gang record to date. Credit to Segall for helping out, but Untouchable is Kelly's show and while it won't make anyone forget the Byrds or Love, any song from the album would sound pitch-perfect on a playlist next to either band's best work, and that's really saying something.

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