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Random Spirit Lover

I’ve been listening to the new Sunset Rubdown album for the past week or so..

Hell this band is weird.

Wait. Before I go on, I have to say: I’m a huge fan of Spencer Krug, the guy’s super creative.. And I love Wolf Parade. That said however, Sunset Rubdown just takes a whole lot longer to get used to..

Its weird.. They’re essentially the same band.. Same singer, same songwriter, same music style, and mostly the same instruments.. But totally different. I suppose in a way Wolf Parade kinda swings towards the pop side, catchy hooks and such, but SR songs seem to have equally as many hooks.. Just weird hooks.

It makes you wonder, if perhaps some bands just set out to create strange music.. If some kids get together and decide: Hey! Lets start an indie rock band! But lets make it bat-*cough* insane weird.. And call it Experimental! Cos people LOVE that crap!

Ok so these kids have their first band practice (Well first they have to decide if they want to have a drum-machine or just a regular drum-person and just how many guitarists and keyboardists they can actually fit in the garage) and the guy who’s got them together starts playing them the songs he’s been writing on his acoustic guitar for the past couple months.. They sound great! Everyone’s really impressed.. But they sound a little too good.. Too accessible.. No one wants to hear that kind of simple beauty any more..

So phase two.. They beat the crap out all the new songs.

The guitarist comes up with a nice little lick.. Really good stuff.. But it sounds a little like U2 or Coldplay. No problem. Just play it twice as fast, in a different time signature to the rest of the song, looped throughout, and with as MUCH reverb, delay, flanger and tasteful over drive as possible.. Now you’ve got it!

Then add some really dark and atmospheric strings; ambient guitar swell; slow, steady bass lines; and some of those effects on the keyboard that are supposed to emulate instruments that no-one’s even heard of before.

Ok sweet! Now for the lyrics.. I recon they start off pretty normal, but then any thing about girls has to go, so we replace that with: I love you tiger/stallion/spirit dragon.. And add some medieval kind of stuff you find in battle-metal songs, and then some really deep philosophical stuff! Now we’re talking!

At least it makes for interesting music.. And I must say, after about the third listen, Random Spirit Lover (Um yeah..) is really growing on me. Its quite genius actually! There’s just MORE music in there than most bands can fit into 12 songs.. Its well worth the effort. Maybe better than an album that grabs you on the first listen.

But then again. That’s just what they want you to think..

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  1. Chris
    June 12, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Nice review, glad you’re enjoying it 

    To be honest, I’d say that your point about the whole ‘experimental’ band idea is pretty true, but way more applicable for Sunset Rubdown’s previous albums. A lot of music can come off as obnoxious and forced and filled with constant “Look at me, I’m different” slaps to the face, but I personally don’t think that applies to Random Spirit Lover. It doesn’t strike me as a bunch of random noises sped up, smashed together and thrown in a blender. Instead, it comes off as pretty polished and well thought out, particularly once the songs start to grow on you, like Magic vs Midas and The Courtesan Has Sung. When compared to earlier stuff like We’ve Got Broken Eyes, it sounds a lot more professional and approaching the murky-waters of if not radio-friendliness, then at least being an album that you can play in the car with friends. Sure they are still different as hell to most bands, but why is that a bad thing if it’s fun to listen to?

    Also, I’d say give the lyrics another chance before you write them off as silly. To me, these aren’t Krug going “love songs, ew, let’s get some dragons.” All the stallion/ leopard imagery is odd, but you can’t say it doesn’t fit with the whole Narnia-on-acid feel the album has. Krug is an odd song writer, but he was just as odd on Wolf Parade (“You say you hate the way they scrape their brakes all over town/Just pretend it’s whales, keeping their voices down” anyone?) where he was probably a bit restrained by needing to tie in with Boeckner’s half of the album. Often I get the impression that his songs aren’t about how he sees the world that he lives in, but rather the one he has in his head. Sure, if you approach them with expectations of normalcy, they will seem disjointed and, okay well they’re weird lyrics even if you expect weird lyrics. But they are written like short stories more than songs. Strange characters, strange occurrences, it’s like a fantasy book rather than a bunch of songs that are necessarily -about- anything.

    And that’s why they’re fun, for me. I haven’t enjoyed lyrics this much since Brock and his idiom-twisting pessimism. I like songs about men on leopards throwing dead birds in the air. I like songs about washed up actors finding their wives in mortuaries. I like songs about stallions, about cities, about back-and-forths between two characters trying to out-do each other in the way they describe the clouds. I’d much rather have this than yet another songwriter struggling to find a metaphor for glistening eyes that hasn’t been done to death. I guess you have to decide for yourself whether they are being different for the sake of being different, or because different is what they do really, really well.

  2. June 13, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    You know what Chris you’re fully right!

    I suppose I was kinda talking more about younger bands..
    SR have definitely matured a lot on this album..
    Its great!

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