The '80s have been dead for a while, but the decade's goth-rock/post-punk/synth-pop sounds still maintain cultural prestige. Interpol reel in good crowds, White Lies and Editors play to arenas in the UK, and Microsoft released an Unknown Pleasures–themed Zune in 2008. One of the younger bands repping this niche is Philadelphia-born (now NYC) Cold Cave, whose 2009 debut, Love Comes Close, was all about woebegone electronic melodies and equally somber emotions.
Cherish the Light Years mines the same vein but makes sizable improvements. This is a kinetic piece of work, bursting with energy and wonder under a veneer of grimness. "The Great Pan Is Dead" quickly shoots Cherish skyward, flowering into a big, gorgeous chorus. There are several nifty details: "Pacing Around the Church" pulls off headstrong dance punk; the center of "Icons of Summer" resembles a Nintendo soundboard being flogged rhythmically; "Alchemy and You" incorporates mariachi horns to excellent effect. Some moments get too '80s for their own good (segments of "Catacombs" upgrade the chorus of Modern English's "I Melt with You"), but the vitality keeps the album from reeking of cheap-and-easy revival. The only real sore spot is Wes Eisold's overdramatic Robert Smith singing style — his pain sounds fashionable and forced instead of penetrating and raw. Generally so-so lyrics don't help, especially with stilted, hokey alliteration like "coating conversation in a crowded club of crippled congregation." But the disc overcomes the sour melodrama. An instrumental Cherish would have been almost unfuckwithable.