It must not be easy for Andy Cabic. The San Francisco resident has played second fiddle and understudy to Devendra Banhart through not only Banhart’s releases, but also Cabic’s own projects. The first Vetiver album was a product of Cabic’s, yet was overshadowed, at least in the press, by the appearances of his bandmates, Banhart, Hope Sandoval, Joanna Newsom and My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O’Cioisoig. It seems that Cabic is always playing Robin to Banhart’s Batman, Bucky to his Captain America, Jimmy Olsen to his Clark Kent. Well, I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. I always root for whoever is playing the Yankees, my favorite films are ones that struggled at the box office, and I prefer Lisa Simpson episodes to Homer or Bart-centric ones. You get the picture. Vetiver’s second album, To Find Me Gone finds Cabic firmly in the spotlight, delivering his most solid work to date.
To Find Me Gone, as in “One day you’ll wake up,” could be a statement directed at Banhart, saying, in effect, if this album is as good as I think it is, you might not have reliable old Andy to kick around anymore. It isn’t, as Cabic and Banhart are still fast friends, but it’s fun to think that way sometimes. However, the only place Banhart is even recognizable is on the final T. Rex like track, “Down at El Rio,” where he sings backup for Cabic. Gone now are Newsom, Sandoval and O’Ciosoig, with new musicians in their places. The biggest difference though is the confidence and presence of Cabic’s stellar songwriting. Some might miss the playfulness of specific Banhart-esque songs from the debut, but in place of the silliness (such as in the song “Amour Fou”) is a placid, serene and longing tone, much welcome in the face of `freak-folk.’ Cabic’s songs don’t necessarily fit into that genre. Instead, the songs on To Find Me Gone find the middle ground between folk and country in much the same way that the west coast ’70s era did. An artist from the Topanga / Laurel Canyon scene like Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills and Neil Young mastered this art, and now too has Cabic.
The album is frontloaded with some of his more epic pastoral songs including the straightforward lyrical “Been So Long,” which shares a lot with Lindsey Buckingham’s manner of writing. “You May Be Blue” starts off with a “Personal Jesus”-like driving melody. “No One Word” is one of the most compelling songs on the album, beginning a string of songs that remind one of the more traditional folk singer / songwriters of yore. “Idle Ties” and “I Know No Pardon” only reinforce the idea that Cabic has finally found his niche. His guitar squeaks and strums with effortless beauty while his voice is like Banhart’s without the warble and Nick Drake’s without the angst. The incredible “Red Lantern Girls” is one of the few to actually build up into something frenetic and boisterous with lots of guitar bending and tribal pounding toward the conclusion at six and a half minutes, but still fits nicely among the quieter tracks.
While buddy Banhart wishes his kids would be longhaired children, it seems from the songs that Cabic just hopes they can live a quiet and happy life. It seems as though he’s not the guy who `digs the scene,’ but rather the guy who just wants to be alone with his guitar. Vetiver’s first album was the result of four years of collaboration between some major players in the indie folk music scene, and at times could seem like somewhat of an inconsistent album. This, added to Cabic playing guitar for Devendra Banhart’s solo albums, led to Andy Cabic being relegated to sidekick status. Now, with all of that behind him, and a more focused time period in which to record an album, we are treated to the real Andy Cabic, that of To Find Me Gone, the second album from his Vetiver project. I keep picturing Cabic walking up to freakmeister Banhart to say, “No Devendra, you can be my wingman anytime.”