Tier 3

music / / poetry / / philosophy / / -ology by Nick Courtright

Album Review: Sunset Rubdown’s Random Spirit Lover

It’s not too often that a modern-day musician says “here, take this, it’s my whole freaking brain, synapses and gooey parts and all,” but Spencer Krug, the madman extraordinaire behind Sunset Rubdown (as well as the widely adored Wolf Parade), has done just that. With Random Spirit Lover, he throws his cerebrum straight off the parking garage, giving the audience a meandering but purposeful masterwork of clatter whose intricacy is belied only by its complication.

This is an album that demands dozens of listens—not because it’s super-catchy, or danceable, or even particularly good-looking—but because the tangled and twisted neuroses that lie behind its cluttered appearance require a lot of time to put into sense. Chances are, the first time you hear Random Spirit Lover it’ll sound like a musi-lunatic gone out of his mind at the airplane’s controls, and, in a sense, that’s exactly what’s happened. True, on that first listen, the album’s not really even that engaging, what with its semi-indecipherable ranting and unpredictable ebbs and flows. But on the bridge between simple-minded madness and the eccentricities of quite-likely-brilliance, Random Spirit Lover earns its keep.

In the process of making a complete album rather than merely a collection of songs, the classical notion of the “single” was left out; although several songs here could be worthy of A-side status— most notably lead-off “The Mending of the Gown,” centerpiece “Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days,” and album apex “The Taming of the Hands That Came Back To Life”—even these tracks challenge the conception of the catchy crowd-pleaser with their interweaving melodies, lengthiness, and—let’s be honest—general weirdness. But this is an album’s album, as the peaks and valleys of its construction arrive not so much in individual songs, but throughout the record—when a song chugs along at a heightened heart rate for its duration, there’s a good chance the following track will provide the peaceful respite necessary to ease the foot off the gas pedal. But it seems safe to assume that this apparent inconsistency is not the product of carelessness, but rather the result of an obsessive artisan’s design.

At its heart, though, beneath all the arcane lacework and obscure metaphors, Random Spirit Lover is a rock and roll album. It does rock, most of the time, and its intensity subsides only often enough to spare the listener a case of clinical shock. While the incredibly inexhaustible Spencer Krug may be famous for his other projects—Swan Lake and Frog Eyes, as well as Wolf Parade—Sunset Rubdown is where he lets it all go, uncompromised and diligent to every detail. And although Random Spirit Lover is at first glance an over-complicated mess, its fifty-eight minute big picture is pretty damn pretty.

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1 Comment»

  chadlew_ishoward wrote @

The deep metaphor of this album is what keeps me coming back as well. My philosophical underpinnings have not been this challenged by a work of art in quite some time.

Thank you for taking the time to compose such a well-written review.


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