• 18-song compact disc
• Artwork: Sara Padgett & Adam Heathcott
Following up their acclaimed William of Orange EP, experimental rock band The Caribbean will release its third album, Plastic Explosives, on September 20 on Miami’s Hometapes label. Plastic Explosives contains 12 songs and a half-dozen interludes. It was produced by Beauty Pill’s Chad Clark (who recently produced Wilderness’ debut record) and the group at Silver Sonya and the legendary Inner Ear in Arlington, VA as well as in the Washington, D.C.-based band’s National Crayon Museum studio. Plastic Explosives broadens the five-piece’s signature “late-night” sound, marrying a mid-afternoon pop immediacy that evokes Simon and Garfunkel, the Shins, and the Dismemberment Plan with a narrative angle that could only come from a frustrated short-story writer and former ad pitchman. The record’s six interludes quote from and hint at the actual songs, suffusing the project with music that recalls gems like Pet Sounds or the Hang-Ups’ Second Story.
Michael Kentoff, The Caribbean’s songwriter and a veteran of the D.C. scene states, “Over the course of our two previous albums and last year’s EP, William of Orange, we refined the idea of songs that explore ambiguity, taking advantage of found sounds and the little accidents that happen while writing and playing. Now we’re pushing ahead, away from indeterminacy and into something deeper and I hope more profound. But it’s not that these songs are anthemic – if anything, they’re the most intimate things we’ve ever done. They’re like very elaborate phone messages.”
Plastic Explosives contains the band’s unique mix of songs of foreboding, domestic peril, and vaguely illicit behavior. Kentoff’s characters spy on each other, arrange meetings in bars and airports, and make big plans – but sometimes end up too afraid to even leave their basement apartments. Ineptitudes of all sorts are explored, but rarely is judgment passed. As Kentoff noted, “We’re the anti-Don Henley; we don’t talk down to our characters.” When Kentoff breaks his own rules and sings, “And you’re so/Over it now,” in “Interfaith Roommates,” it’s a revelation.
The group – singer and guitarist Kentoff; multi-instrumentalist and editor Matthew Byars; guitarist Dave Jones; keyboardist and bassist Don Campbell; and always-out-of-town drummer Antony Dennison – set out this time to make a sound big and bright enough to both encompass and refract guitarist/vocalist Kentoff’s unconventional stance. Whereas The Caribbean’s previous albums History’s First Know-It-All and Verse by Verse explored sonic side streets, Plastic Explosives travels down the widest boulevard. “We always start out with a drum part here, a guitar line there, a vocal melody from left field, and the songs grow from those elements,” Kentoff said. “This time we found the songs called for a sound that needed to be immediate and immense – many Fender guitars, a lot of different instruments, beatboxes, deep kick drums, and vocals upon vocals. Nothing about it is tentative.” In fact, Kentoff explained that “we needed to curb our inclination toward modesty a little.” Even their credit for producer Clark reflects the modus operandi: “Amplified by Chad Clark.”