Don Caballero – For Respect

3 out of 5

Produced by: Steve Albini

Label: Touch and Go

Gotta be honest with you – I never had much love for this album.  Even when I was deep in Don Cab love, I wasn’t really able to stand by it.  Singles Breaking Up – from around the same time and thus cut from the same cloth – is similarly less replayed than other DC discs, but I like that compilation; it gets by on gusto.

Yes, you might say it’s hard to go back to the balls-out rock – you can call it jazz fusion all you want but I dont think that’s the major element here – of For Respect if you started with What Burns or American Don, but I really don’t think it was my expectations that let me down.  I owned Singles before Respect, and was actually looking forward to what I thought would be a more “hardcore” version of the group.   …I just don’t think it’s a fantastic album.  It’s undoubtedly a good album, but after kicking off with a slew of crisp and defined tracks, the album gets into a long glut of loud but not notable.  And to touch back on expectations, I own a lot of albums that do the instrumental shuffle, some with flourish, some without, and by the standards of that genre, I still think For Respect falls in the average bucket.  It’s a group with skill and energy but not yet the confidence to break that apart and reconstruct it into something new.  So you get some cool riffs and breakdowns, definite toe-tappers… but they don’t really build toward anything.  Even Albini, in his recording wisdom, seemed to just mic the band like any other Touch and Go sludge, leaving the mix pretty flat.

If I wanted to apply some guesswork, at the time of For Respect, I’d say it was Damon Che’s band, and if the DC sound as suggested by his reformation of the group post Don Can is an indication, he’s definitely got the learnings on the drumkit, but he likes to rock out.  From Don Cab 2 until their initial breakup, the guitarists and bassists perhaps interposed more influence, and we got the math rock classics that any rock instrumental fan can at least identify as noteworthy.

Which, alas, For Respect isn’t.  I dont have the cool history of having heard it at the time of release, so maybe the impact would have been different then.  But I don’t think the rock theatrics here, post the first few hard-hitting tracks, displayed the type of nuance that would have indicated to anyone what the band would (temporarily) become.

One of those instances where, while by all means a quality disc, and a valid entry in your instrumental catalogue, isn’t really a necessary journey for every fan of the band.