Available for the first time as a vinyl LP, this collection of Don Caballero songs chart the brainy instrumental band’s evolution in a series of tunes originally released on 7”s.
Nothing new has been added to the compilation for its re-release – all 13 songs remain unchanged and in their pristine idiosyncratic glory. The bulk of the tunes date from the early 90s as the band prepared demo tapes for record companies in the hope of getting signed. Eventually, Touch and Go took them on and the musical rollercoaster affectionately known as ‘The Don’ left Pittsburgh to conquer the rest of America.
As the band recalls, the oldest recordings found here are the first six which became the first two singles and a B-side for the fourth. They were recorded in a half-inch eight-track studio by Lee Hollohan of Valencia, Pennsylvania, for a modest $25 an hour.
The next batch, tracks seven to nine, were recorded by Steve Albini in his once home studio and were a part of the For Respect sessions (released in 1993 on Touch and Go). Track 10 was also recorded in this same studio by colleague engineer Bob Weston, while track 11 was recorded in Detroit by engineer Al Sutton and was part of the sessions that spawned the 1995 album Don Caballero 2. Finally, tracks 12 and 13 also saw Albini behind the controls working from the B Room portion of his new Chicago studio, Electrical Audio, directly preceding the sessions for their 1998 album What Burns Never Returns.
Formed in the summer of 1991 as a project between drummer Damon Che and guitarist Mike Banfield, their ranks quickly swelled to add Patrick Morris (bass) and Ian Williams (guitar). Musically the band were best suited to picking up the loose threads of the radical rock of Slint – themselves a Touch and Go band recorded by Steve Albini.
Capturing the same hardcore ferocity with none of the dramatic vocals, the band instead plied its trade in quirky time signatures and complex song arrangements. This compilation doesn’t fully reflect how far the band warped the space time continuum of intelligent underground rock. But it does show their bizarre genesis and their commitment to rocking out.
If there’s one song that captures this intensity it’s "Puddin’ in My Eye" with its thrash-like groove and rapid fire rhythmic changes. The group got weirder as they grew older, and then the original line-up disintegrated. Which makes these classic tracks a fine way to celebrate an underrated band from America’s cerebral rock underground.