By Bryan Cipolla
Caution Children—a refreshing burst of hot air that has been relentlessly blowing through Ithaca’s harsh winters over the past three years—has grown from a loosely formed open mic act to a solidified mainstay within the local music scene. Led by founder Steve Burton, the group is composed of five other members, all of whom met at Ithaca College. Burton and company’s fun, yet sincere brand of rock ‘n roll mashes the songwriting dynamic of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band and the punk sensibilities of The Hold Steady, while sprinkling the dark somberness of The National on top.
Their music aims to cut through the bullshit that comprises a large part of the current indie music scene. The following created by their energetic live shows has greatly heightened the anticipation of their debut album. The album, still untitled, captures the matured rock ‘n roll sound the group has moved toward in place of the poppier songs that characterized their earlier material.
“Burning Up The Night” makes for an appropriate album opener as it starts off right away with a steady rock rhythm and guitar solo, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The chorus of, “Burning up the night / Burning up the night / Trying to get back to the place where we started at,” is enough to incite crowds into a state of electricity. Funky keyboards, bells, and saxophone are led by pounding drums, played by Pat Haggerty, as the intensity builds and Burton screams until the song comes to a succinct ending. Highlighting the song is the inclusion of graveling vocals and haunting laughter by Nate Hodge of The Tundra Toes, who voices the part of the devil.
Following “The Brokenest Century,” takes a decidedly bluesier turn, until tuba blasts and handclaps transform the tune into a swinging rock song.
Burtons’ deep, gravely vocals carry a sincerity that makes his stories of broken down bars and torn lives come to life. An example is an album highlight, “Blood,” in which Burton weaves a story of a father and son after the loss of their mother. A haunted piano tries to get itself in tune before the saxophone of Reece Lazarus and keys of Aaron Terkel smoothly roll under the vocals. Gang vocals, which punch into the album in all the right places, join Burton in screaming, “If God compels we’ll have to FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT like hell.” The song picks up and finishes in a punk fury with the vocals growling to the very end.
The dark “River” finds the band at their heaviest with a driving bass, beating drums and deep tones throughout. A warped voice spouting a discernible satanic sermon over electronic tones starts the song off. Just when you think the song is about to end, an abrupt baseline sparks a choir of evil monks chanting, along with the wailing sound of the saw being played by CJ Knowles, also of The Tundra Toes.
Closing out the album, “Lites Lites” is appropriately titled, as it shines as one of the best tracks and functions as a perfect album closer. A mandolin strums as Burton sings of two people who are so in love that they set themselves on fire. “When we can’t feel our arms we’ll set fire to them / And light, light, light our way to heaven.” Gradually, echoing guitar chords accompany the humming of the vocals, made denser by the backing vocals of bassist Mike Grippi.
Abruptly, the cue “Burn, burn, burn, burn” sets the track off with a steadier beat as the soaring guitar of Alex Rosenblatt is heard overhead. The track continues to fade out and build back up until it erupts in a mantra of gang vocals screaming, “Whoooa,” as if trying to hold onto something with their last breath. Ending again with airy, distant guitar tapping and humming the album closes in a final sigh.
At the refreshing length of ten tracks, the album says exactly what it needs to say. This world might be fucked up, but it looks a lot better knowing there are people behind you. Rock ‘n’ roll may not save lives but it does give you something to believe in.