Friday, April 06, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 261 - Don Caballero - American Don

Album – American Don
Artist – Don Caballero
Key Players - Ian Williams – Guitars. Eric Emm – Bass. Damon Che - drums
Produced By – Steve Albini (credited as “the proprietor”)

Release Date – October 3, 2000

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Had a tune come up on shuffle recently and decided that a full exploration was again needed.

Overview – First, Don Caballero is a band, not a person. The name was taken from a Godfather Parody done on Second City Television. Formed in Pittsburgh in the early 1990's the band set out to have a singer, but it never materialized. “Math Rock” is the format typically pinned to the band they'd tour for a bit, gain, lose and regain members, move to Chicago, tour more, break up and re-form......This is the bands fifth studio album, and seen by some as the final under the “creative core” of Che and Williams.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – Just as a note, so much goes on in these songs each track could get an albums worth of write up. I'll do my best to get you the point, but be as brief as I can in doing so. “Fire Back About your New Baby's Sex” is the first in a long line of tracks names that make you re-read it to be sure you read what you read. Che hammers the high hat and then Williams layers a few short guitar parts. Emm chugs out a few rumbling bass notes and then Che switches to his tom toms. The track feels like it will really take off, but the band suddenly slows it down and Williams finds a comfortable riff and the band seems to loop around on that. Then about the 2 minute mark everything seems to stop. Williams delay loops a few short guitar parts for half a minute, then Che comes in with quick tight bursts on the drums and then about the three minute mark you really get an idea what Che can do. Its not this super fast metal like drumming,but REALLY listen to what he ends up doing its impressive. All the while Emm and Williams continue their driving core set of notes. It continues at a torrid pace and even for sort of a convoluted set of notes, it all blends perfectly. Stellar opener. “The Peter Criss Jazz” is a much slower track with far less time signature changes. Che is kept in check for a lot as Williams speeds up the guitar well over two minutes in. Che seems to rumble the same drum line. Emm offers some distorted bass riffs, but Williams seems to want to keep the track on focus, even with the feeling it is about to burst at any moment. This seems to go on for a long time (the track is over 10 minutes long) at the 7 minute mark you think its wrapping up, it fades but comes back up with Emm finding a cool bass riff and Williams adds to the chaos. Still, Che holds it down with such precision. “Haven't Lived Afro Pop” starts off with each member seeming to go in different directions. Emm's bass is higher in the mix and Williams seems to pluck single strings as Che finds, what seems to be, a new drum to strike. At 1:20 the band just takes off. The chopping guitars match the drumming spot on. Then, Che decides he is going to have some fun, and it feels like follow the leader. Emm does okay for a bit, but Williams makes it his own. The hi hat is clapped together at such a rapid pace it seems like triple time. Emm and Williams seem to them trade off harmonics on their instruments for a very cool sound. Another great song title comes up in “You Drink a Lot of Coffee for a Teenager”. Again, it feels like the band is tuning up but wait for it. Emm strikes some bass, Williams does something, then Che is on the drums almost saying “lets go guys!” The key to remember on this one is Che doesn't have a double bass drum. That is all a single kick drum. Listen from 40 seconds in. Go ahead..I'll wait. Okay...tired? I am. Sheesh. Good thing the whole track seems to slow down for the second half. Everyone needs to catch their breath. Seem to slow it down again with the track “Ones All Over the Place”. Williams layers his guitar, but Che isn't really pushing the tempo. Emm drops a few big bass riffs but, that is well after the song has started. Williams seems okay with repeating his guitar line as Emm and Che seem to “wait” for the chance to jump. This is another longer track and the band seems to use the space and time to spread out. It never really takes off, but it is pretty interesting none the less. Switching between speakers the guitar bounces on “I Never Liked You” at the start. Che then jumps on his kit and Emm gives the thundering single bass notes to really grab the listener. Williams has a cleaner guitar sound on this track. With a song title like “Details on how to get ICEMAN on your License Plate” you'll be wondering what is really up! The band each seems to want to go in a different direction. Williams loops a guitar section and then plays over that. Emm and Che then find their pockets and roll with it. Emm seems to be doing the most interesting things and keeping it on point. Che, not to be outdone, takes off on his own moments later and it seems like Williams just wants to keep up. Che takes the lead as “A Lot of People Tell Me I Have A Fake British Accent” gets rolling. Emm and Che take off and make it a heavy rocker. Both Williams and Emm drop off and let Che rumble on the kit some. It is not really a solo as much as it is an interlude. They all come right back around and rumble forward. Closing out the record is “Let's Face it Pal, You Don't Need That Eye Surgery”. Emm repeats the same bass notes at the start as Che hits each drum like it stole money from him. Williams is slower to join the fold and he and Che seem to find a tandem in notes and structure. They all seem to want to go out on a high note and nobody shows any signs of backing down. Solid album closer.

Where are they now? - The band broke up while on tour for this record. The band was tired, and tired of each other and decided they'd break up after the tour. Their van hit a patch of ice on the way to Detroit for what was to be their final show. The van crashed into another truck and was heavily damaged. The members survived, but they disbanded on the side of the highway. The three have all gone on to other projects. Emm joined the band “Good Morning. Damon Che played drums with Bellini but has since re-formed Don Caballero, beginning in 2003 and they have released two more records. Don Caballero is listed as still being “active”. Ian Williams is the guitar player in the band “Battles”.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw Don Caballero live.

FDF Overall Take – Many people may struggle with the odd time signatures, or lack of vocals. There are a few really shining moments on this record of some stunning playing. Sure even I as a fan listen to parts and say “ehhh” but overall it impresses more than it disappoints. If you are scoring a record bin, or see any of their stuff its worthy of a few bucks. Something you might not toss on every day, but then again if you tossed the same music on every day you'd probably stumbled upon this web page, and read this far, by sheer accident.

The band on Touch and Go (label for many releases)
Relapse (new version)
Just what the heck IS Math Rock?

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Fire Back About Your Baby's Sex (studio version)

Live version of same tune

You Drink A Lot of Coffee for a Teenager

You can still track down the album on


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