Every time I start writing a review of French Toast’s In A Cave, I can’t get past the name. I start getting hungry for French toast, and it makes me think of the breakfast I had at San Francisco’s Citizen Cake recently. It was smothered in this banana-chocolate butter spread and had some maple syr…and there I go again! Damn! Why must they tease me with their delicious-sounding moniker?
Well, anyway, since I’ve gotten that out of my system, the important thing for me to do now is get to French Toast the band. A duo consisting of Jerry Busher and James Canty (little brother of Fugazi’s Brendan Canty), French Toast play an updated, darker and sexier version of the Dischord sound. Their first full-length for the label, In a Cave, is a rocking batch of songs with plenty of groove and experimentation to spare. The first two tracks alone pack a punch that recalls DC veterans Girls Against Boys as well as late-seventies post-punk like Joy Division. And if you’re going to invite comparisons to other bands, those are two of the best to be compared to.
The heavy bass and punk rock energy subsides temporarily on track three, an instrumental appropriately titled “New Dub.” The following track, however, returns to a Joy Division-inspired sound, albeit that of the later, more creepy version of the band, with a bass reminiscent of Peter Hook’s and drum machines that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Xiu Xiu record. However, “Lion’s Den” immediately picks up the pace with some high energy post-punk grooves.
All the while, you hardly notice that there’s only two dudes jamming on the record. Perhaps its their manic energy or good use of space, but they make due with what they got, in turn creating a surprisingly full-sounding record, if a somewhat minimalist one. Busher’s bass playing is melodic and varied enough to carry an entire album’s worth of songs, though Canty’s guitar playing breaks it up with more jangly sounds, like on the surfy “In My Room.”
French Toast don’t sound like more than two guys most of the time, but they don’t have to. Their songs are good enough not to need a lot of accompaniment or augmentation by extra instruments. It’s rare that I say that, but French Toast do a kick ass job on their own. In fact, they’re so good, I nearly forgot about how hungry their name makes me. But I just reminded myself again, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to fry up some egg-battered bread while I listen to In a Cave once again.
Girls Against Boys – Cruise Yourself
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.