Monday, October 15, 2007
Random Spirit Lover
Sorry I've been gone for so long. After taking a wonderous vacation, spread over two long weekends, my weeks home were compressed and filled with working and chores and other things that I take more time to do over the course of a full week. So, here's my stab at coming back, reviewing Sunset Rubdown's Random Spirit Lover...
Random Spirit Lover brings you in with a sweet little guitar solo and a piano pounding, setting your expectations for a jaunty little sing along. Seconds pass, and things get dense, and stay that way. It's an album that's thick like a molasses and motor oil cocktail (a molatorhito?). When Sunset Rubdown started out, they (he) sounded like Sebadoh fronted by a Thanksgiving Day David Bowie balloon. All jaunty lo-fi overpowered by Spencer Krug's big emotive voice. Ever since that first album, Snake's Got A Leg, Sunset Rubdown have built intensely ornate additions on top of their foundation. Like Manhattan gargoyles on Lincoln's log cabin.
The whole affair is puddled with pools of reverb. So when all effects are dropped off, like 2/3 of the way through "Upon Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days", and all you hear is Krug, the drums and gentle unadorned electric guitar strum it breaks your heart. Even moreso when he accuses you of "kissing your captor's hands". "Upon Your Leopard..." is a fantastic, towering song that barrels towards and past you, barely giving you time to catch up with it. Almost instinctively you sing along with Krug's "whoah oh oh"'s. They serve almost as reminder to Krug and the band that there are people listening to this record, and it'd be nice to include them in the games they're playing.
"She said ‘My sails were flapping in the wind’, I said ‘Can I use that in a song, she said ‘I mean the end begins’, I said ‘I know, can I use that too?’" There’s something about conversations in songs that I absolutely love. It’s a trick that must be used sparingly and only by someone who knows what he’s doing. Clearly, Spencer Krug is one of those people. The previous quote is dropped in the middle of "The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life", a jaunty little stomper of a song that is more of a narrative where the conversation is part of the story. Whereas "Wicked/Winged Things" is a conversation between two people who’ve seen something they can’t quite explain, like "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" but completely different.
One thing that definitely sets this record apart from previous Sunset Rubdown albums is how this is not a solo side project anymore. Sunset Rubdown is officially a band, and they're tight and virtousic. Guitarist, Michael Doerkson's feverish solos bring to mind Television's Marquee Moon. Like that 30 year old masterpiece, Doerkson's solos weave together lattice skyscrapers atop the purposefully queasy sea of the rest of the band. Creating an island that floats with no avenues. Krug's lyrics eventually pull up, take you around town in verbal gondolas.
So, after trying to avoid mentioning Krug’s other full-time band, I find myself here mentioning Wolf Parade. Both bands have become leviathans. Muscular and imposing figures, with different compositions. Where Wolf Parade are built like a professional wrestler, Sunset Rubdown is more like one of those mountain climbers that don’t use ropes. More sinew than huge biceps and forearms. Not that one is better than the other, the mountain climber can’t pull off a convincing pile driver, and the wrestler can’t, well, climb mountains. One thing is sure though, they both could kick my ass.