There’s a moment on the second track of Cold Showers’ new album Motionless that highlights what has changed for the LA act in the four years since their last LP: when the chunky guitar line on the verse of “Shine” breaks out into a sparkling, horn accented chorus, it becomes crystal clear how much the band’s skills as arrangers and performers have intensified. The solid post-punk that defined the group’s previous LPs still forms the basis for their songs, but with this new LP,the lushness and pop appeal is centered in their delivery. It’s something a sea change for the band, and one they make the most of across these eight tracks.
This is not to say that Cold Showers went ahead and made a pop record. Songs like opener “Tomorrow Will Come” are still trepidatious and mopey in mood, the song’s looping synth percussion sounds establishing melody while vocalist Jonathan Weinberg’s reliable, understated voice melds with warm pads and low-key horns. It’s moreso that the band have figured out how to highlight the best part of every song and drive it home. Check the way that the title track moves along on a strummy guitar before the simple chorus is lifted up on keening synths, and highlighted by chunky drum hits. Or how the speedy “Dismissed” introduces its guitar-line right away, before letting it drop away and then bringing it back in the smooth shifts between sections. It’s just good songcraft, the sort of thing that grabs the ear without necessarily being consciously acknowledged.
That sort of transparency is really pretty remarkable because it’s obvious a lot of effort and consideration went into the creation of Motionless. The synth programming, the use of piano and woodwinds when called for, the judicious application of back-up vocals – none of this stuff is applied without thinking about how it can get the song over with the listener. Equally the band knows when to hold back a bit so they can pay it off; closer “Every Day on My Head” makes the most of a pulsing synthesizer and a sorrowful cello before bringing in the whole of Cold Showers current arsenal for a big finale.
Motionless recalls a lot of great early U2, Jesus and Mary Chain and New Order moments in a positive fashion. Without aping them directly, Cold Showers tap in handily into similar veins of craft and production that those acts did in their prime. What’s more, they’ve figured out ways to apply that creativity in ways that feel substantial rather than showy. Pleasing and well-considered, it’s big level-up for the band and one worthy of your attention and time. Recommended.