Liquid Liquid – “Cavern”

Man, you hear that groove, though?! I love this track!

Liquid Liquid was a New York-based band from the early 1980s, known for their unconventional and rather avant garde approach to music. The band was part of the no-wave movement which arose in the late ’70s and early ’80s, spinning off from the punk scene, where rebel bands deconstructed songs and experimented with sound and structure, coming off as rather harsh, atonal, and free of style…and just perfect for the dance clubs downtown. You know the type, the grimy hole-in-the-wall spots on the backstreets with that tight-knit scene you don’t quite understand, but the drinks are cheap, the energy is poppin’, someone let you get a bump of coke, and this chick is now undressing you in the bathroom. That kinda deal. Liquid Liquid’s time was short, only lasting about three years until they broke up, but their music was quite influential, based on danceable beats, nice grooves and random tangents.

This song in particular, though, is one of their most well-known, and one of the most controversial.

On release in 1983, “Cavern” was a minor success, but particularly caught on with the legendary label Sugar Hill Records (responsible for some of rap’s earliest hits, like the Sugar Hill Gang‘s “Rapper’s Delight”). Sugar Hill had its in-house band recreate the beat in order to make a new song for rapper Melle Mel to rhyme over, in order to follow up their massive hit (and legit rap classic) “The Message,” (by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five) from 1982. Weeks after this band dropped this track, Sugar Hill put out “White Lines (Don’t Do It),” an anti(?)-drug warning which sounded very similar, except on the latter track Melle Mel rhymed about the dangers and thrills of cocaine. It became another classic. Liquid Liquid’s label, 99, took Sugar Hill to court but never got their due, as both the label AND the band fell apart not long after. It was one of the first sampling / beat-appropriation controversies that rap would encounter…and certainly not the last. But, that’s a story for another time (if I ever get around to it, who even knows!).

Anyhow, let’s get back to this track. It’s dope! “Cavern” is so damn funky and fun. It’s a rather simple song, but effective with the percussion and bass, making for a straight five and a half-minute jam which gets my head nodding uncontrollably. The style of music here would also go on to influence artists later, especially in the genre of dance punk. Think LCD Soundsystem, or Hot Chip, or !!!, known for their pulsating, constant grooves. This one, though? Hit play and try not to dance TOO HARD.

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