by Rob Stimpson
In an arts and entertainment industry utterly devoid of originality it is seemingly impossible to release a song about summer, a song that references the sun or even a song that briefly alludes to a beach without being haphazardly juxtaposed with The Beach Boys. Such a comparison is usually unfair, particularly on The Beach Boys themselves, but Caged Animals’ This Summer I’ll Make It Up To You, from the forthcoming EP ‘This Summer’, allows Brian Wilson and his multitude of fans to rest easy, as this particularly summer song is a different animal entirely.
Melodically, the song will have you nodding your head, shuffling your feet and looking for any kind of hard surface on which to tap your hands. It’s synthetic, upbeat, repetitive nature is infectious; it is, well, sunny. Quite simply, it is what summer music should sound like. Vincent Cacchione, lead singer of the New Jersey band, sings that, ‘I’m going where the sun is always shining/ And I promise that I’ll take you to the west coast.’ This, however, is where any sense of summer comforts and golden hued promises come to a shuddering halt as, like the band’s previous output, This Summer I’ll Make It Up To You is a curious mixture of opposing ingredients.
The wording of the title alone immediately suggests that the songs origins are based in a negative place, where one person has wronged another. Two swift mentions of heartbreak in the first verse alone immediately set the lyrical tone at odds with the joyous melody, and the aforementioned trip to the west coast seems more a desperate suggestion floating on rapidly flagging hope rather than the sun drenched postcard perfection of a road trip to the California ingrained into the public conscience. This is Surfin’ U.S.A. with Morrissey lyrics.
The mood only darkens further as the second verse looms, as the promise of the west coast is seemingly forgotten, replaced instead with the suggestion that ‘We’ll get in my car and, baby, take a ride out/ To the Jersey shore if nothing better works out’. As New Jersey natives it is fine for Caged Animals to present the Jersey shore as a consolation prize, as in reality it is certainly a step down from the sunlit dreams and promise of what a trip to the west coast entails. One represents the dreams and promises that we make to ourselves and for others, while the other is the crash of reality, the dreams that are not quite fulfilled. The west coast is far away, it is exotic and represents a feeling of being a success; the Jersey shore is home, it is familiar and it is endued with a greater sense of grey and beige. It is a coast, yes, but it is not a coast that occupies many dreams.
Despite the mirror reflecting just how short we tend to fall in fulfilling our dreams and promises, any sense of gloom or desperation is incredibly short lived as the denouement simply fizzes with vague references of ocean based frolicking and an even more potent, joyful melody. The problem for This Summer I’ll Make It Up To You is that downbeat lyrics don’t live long in the memory when all you want to do is clap your hands and shimmy around to the beat, and it’s very difficult to see anything other than a similar fate for the song itself which is far superior to the majority of number one singles that mainstream pop can offer. But, naturally, Caged Animals will not be offered the luxuriant exposure afforded to the mechanical bands and artists that mime for teenagers.
This is in no way a surprise, but it is a shame that a song that so many people would be able to relate to and enjoy will have such a limited release, barring any sudden explosion of popularity. In an ideal world, This Summer I’ll Make It Up To You would be one of the songs to soundtrack the summer. Despite the downbeat nature of the lyrics, they are vague enough to gloss over, and the simple, contagious chorus and joyous melody are perfect for those sunlit road trips to anywhere that your reality allows, even if it’s not quite the west coast dream.