Cave In - Antenna
RCA Records
Progressive/Alt Rock
12 songs (56:17)
Release year: 2003
RCA Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Hot off the success of the still-excellent Jupiter, Cave In were being hotly pursued by various major labels. Going with RCA (later acquired by Sony) the band produced this, their third full-length and still something of a cautionary tale for bands signing up to big labels. It's not that Antenna is a bad album, by any means, but it has an awful reputation as the creation of a band kowtowing to their mainstream bosses. That's not an altogether unfair criticism; Cave In were getting sick of being pigeonholed as metalcore, despite Jupiter being anything but, yet after a serious fan backlash (which apparently included having shit thrown at them) the band decided that supporting Muse and Foo Fighters on tour was not worth the hassle and would go on to tour with the heavier likes of Funeral For A Friend and Every Time I Die - eventually, of course, returning to metal with 2005's Perfect Pitch Black.

Yet returning to Antenna, it's a bit of a struggle to see why it deserved such opprobrium. After all, Jupiter was hardly heavy, preferring a melancholic space-rock meander, and Antenna takes this and combines this with big radio-friendly hooks. It's hardly bubblegum pop, but quite intricate for radio rock and even heavy, the sound of a band growing up, but aiming their sound where they think it should be going rather than letting it develope organically. You can tell that the band are heading in an even more Radiohead-friendly direction from the opening Stained Silver, noisy rock riffage covering a complex little song that combines prog rock experimentalism and stadium pop catchiness - certainly better than anything Muse have put out recently, and easy to see as a kind of slightly-more-underground version of Absolution. Inspire and Anchor alone kicks that album all around, mixing compelling groovy riffs and uplifting choruses perfectly without making the songs seem dumbed down - Penny Racer in particular must have made Dave Grohl's hair stand on end...

The album is far from one-note, however. Joy Opposites follows on perfectly from Jupiter's spacey rock, having a lovely prog tenderness to the drum patters and layered guitars, the vocal lines atop it all acting to gather it together into a kind of lovely, catchy, melodic lump. Beautiful Son builds from an acoustic intro, introducing the electric guitars bit by bit, something like an Oasis that was genuinely good, whilst Sea Frost hearkens back to early Porcupine Tree with a sturdy, bass-driven foundation built on with psychedelic guitar arcs, turning into the sort of effects-strewn trip that Hawkwind would think was a bit over-the-top. It's excellent, though, an eight-minute modern prog tour-de-force that flows naturally and fits the surrounding catchiness surprisingly well, acting as more than just an interlude before tracks like the upbeat rocker Rubber And Glue come in. Elsewhere, the likes of Breath of Water have enough prog meander to make the underlying rock structure memorable, and although Lost in the Air downright steals from Radiohead it's a good tune nonetheless.

When all is said and done, if you fancy yourself open-minded and don't mind the odd dip into radio-friendly lands then Antenna is certainly worth a try. One of the main criticisms you can direct at the album, however, is that it's a bit long, and a bit overenthusiastic. There's hardly any down time, every chorus is uplifting, anthemic, every melody is heart-stirring, designed to snag your ear - very little is subtle. It would be a great example of truly cynical songwriting if I didn't think Cave In honestly believed in what they were creating as a step forward - it was given three months (and took six) to record compared to Jupiter's four days, and you can tell a lot of blood, sweat and tears went in. That's really why I don't think of Cave In as having 'sold out' here - it's genuine, something of quality emerging despite their 'indie metal' sound being commercialised. The band honestly experimented with their sound, even if they were fooling themselves. Indeed, every so often you can hear the band straining at their boundaries, wanting to break free and launch into some of the stomping hardcore riffs that they were once known for. You'll have to wait for the ensuing freedom of Perfect Pitch Black to hear that, but in retrospect Antenna deserves a far better reputation than it has.

Killing Songs :
Inspire, Joy Opposites, Anchor, Beautiful Son, Sea Frost, Rubber And Glue
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Cave In that we have reviewed:
Cave In - Jupiter reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Cave In - Until Your Heart Stops reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
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