12 June 2009

Record Review: Sunset Rubdown- "Dragonslayer" [2009]

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I'm kicking off what will be a fairly steady "column", if you will. I'm going to review records. New ones, old ones, not yet released ones. Whatever I'm listening to. I promise I won't only review ones I like. Well, maybe the old ones will be mostly ones I like, right? Otherwise why am I listening to it. We're working off a five star scale, naturally. Classic! I'm gonna tag these "record reviews" (nifty) and you can cull them.

Sunset Rubdown is Spencer Krug's sister band to the behemoth that is Wolf Parade who, with 2005's Apologies to Queen Mary, set the rock and roll world ABLAZE with wonderfully rocking indieness. It's a seriously good record, though a little overrated maybe. 2008's At Mount Zoomer came thisclose to accomplishing so much, like rocking, being great, and besting it's predecessor in alphabetic order. Close. Just not there. I think this one is underrated though. See how that works?

Sunset's last record, Random Spirit Lover was excellent. Girls, cover your ears- it sounds like what it feels like to jerk off. That might feel like I'm saying it's the greatest album ever, but I'm not. Just like we all live full and rich lives and heaven help us, the moments we rub one out are not our greatest moments to the last (to further the analogy, god bless you if jerking off ends up as your greatest moment, and if Sunset Rubdown's Random Spirit Lover is your super terrific favorite album everall... I mean I wouldn't totally know how to respond to either scenario actually being real). RSL is boiling, fast, spastic, bright, lightning quick, and it makes your eyes squint. It is really great, but I don't know, maybe- you know that scene in Amadeus- "too many notes!" Yeah. If that makes me that King guy, that makes me that King guy.

However, and hold on let's get serious here for a second- Dragonslayer is one of the best records I've heard from this year and it is unbelievably catchy, inventive, weird. Rewards many listens, and sounds like heaven on earth on my big stereo speakers. I've looked all over online and I can't find a name on who produced it (tell me if you know- email, phonecall, fax it over whatever no biggie), so I'm going to assume it's Krug and the rest of the band, so bravo those people. You did awesome.

I think the album's best song is "Black Swan," a seven minute skullcrusher that has the deepest riff on the album: this wide open and fuzzy guitar tone rocking back and forth between all these weird chords. This is a really dynamic record- lots of big bigs and low lows and crazy solos and awesomely processed sounds and layers. You have to love these records- the really catchy ones get you on that first listen on a gut level. It just yanks you in. If it really yanks you in, you stick around to drool over the guitar dropout in "You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)", followed instantly by one of the great moments on the record, the little guitar break/ Casio solo/ nirvana (the thing not the band) crescendo.

There's something very manipulative about it, but it's the summer and summer's for willful self manipulation. If Sunset Rubdown was a movie it would be Terminator 2: Judgment Day- the big, awesome, classic action movie that everyone knows instantly is a classic in the way that few popcorn movies can be, and here we are and it's survived just as well as any movie from that era. As a rock and roll record (only much more girly). I'm telling you, man. Spencer Krug is fucking Eddie Furlong.

It's just a much tighter, more organic album than the last, which felt like a math project at times. Dragonslayer is a lean and mean eight songs, like a little created world, and each song is one of the world's basic and essential elements boiled down perfectly and forever. Every song feeding each other, setting the bar ridiculously high on the first song (like that killer opening in T2) "Silver Moons", followed by just knocking it up a notch every time, ebbing and flowing the way great albums ebb and flow. The epic "Idiot Heart," the beautiful "Paper Lace." Perfect sequence for the tracks.

It's not a perfect album. Great albums should be great albums- diverse of spirit, brilliant music first, any overebarance of genre second. This is why Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation is their Great Album and, say, Sonic Nurse, while truly great, isn't. Dragonslayer is an indie record. It sounds like one, it tends to bloviate a bit in parts like one, Krug sings like he's in one. I guess you could say T2 was a little overly moralistic, but not really, and this is where the analogy falls apart because T2 is, obviously, more or less flawless. But Dragonslayer, again, isn't. Though tempered here, Krug's voice gets to be a bit much on occasion. Sometimes the songs hang around a tiny bit long.

The lyrics are fun too, but I wouldn't call them a strength. I would love for once to find a band that wants to write gigantic, pristinely produced, fat kitchen-sink epics and have the piedras to turn around and make the lyrical stuff more light hearted. I guess you can say Ween did (does? What's their story?) that. Ween killed it at every moment however, and that's an unfair standard for any band.

But yeah, some of this stuff is a teensy bit heavy handed. Again, sometimes that sweeps you up, and sometimes you just ignore it. Which is fine.

You can say the songs are just as long as the older ones and that's true, but they're not as dense. "Dragonslayer," the album's finale, is a huge measure of restraint for this band. That song can actually breathe. It can sit down and watch a whole god damned TV show with out schizzing out and running around the house like a foaming midget little kid, high on sugar and almost impossible to stop or understand. That's how I'd describe what I didn't like about Random Spirit Lover, an album, again- I liked. I felt it's been adequately "rated." See what I did there?

Please believe though that these are nitpicks. Any fan of rock and roll should like this, even if it's not what you're used to. It's just a really fun, big album to play loud.

ps- I love love love Camilla Wynne Ingr's voice. So great.

Dragonslayer comes out on June 23rd on Jagjaguwar Records.


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