From the Author: “Somewhere Over the Audio Rainbow” will be my regular column appearing on Prime Parents’ Club. This being my first column, I should tell you that I am a rabid reviewer with a ravenous appetite for music, and I will only review music that makes me foam at the mouth (in a good way, of course). Warning: Reviews may contain hyperbole.
Thanks to Rubblebucket, my daughter Evie will hear rainbows long before she ever sees one. You see, I am Evie’s designated in utero DJ. I press the earpieces of my SONY MDR-V150 headphones to my wife Becki’s belly, and thereby transform her uterus into a discothèque.
The first song I ever played for Evie was Rubblebucket’s rapturous dance-floor ode to the delivery room, “Came Out of a Lady.” Fitting, don’t you think? I mean, we all exit ladies when we enter this life, so I figured I would do my daughter a favor by giving her a heads-up. Or a heads-down – it would be best if she were not born breech.
I say all of this because I would not choose just any song for my daughter’s first foray into music. If I had no conscience, I would play Smashmouth’s “All Star” – a song that would play continuously as elevator music in the ninth circle of Hell in a 2011 update of Dante’s Inferno. I chose Rubblebucket’s “Came Out of a Lady” because it is alive in ways that only children – and some adults’ inner children – ever really are. It is an audio rainbow, bursting with every color of the musical spectrum. So it is with much the band’s latest full-length offering, Omega La La.
Trying to pin down what Rubblebucket does is a little like trying to capture an exploding firework with a butterfly net. The band is an octet, and its members are all musical virtuosos. Its style is a musical melting pot of ideas. I would say it is the musical equivalent of the African Sweet Potato Peanut Stew my wife and I made together last autumn – odd, exotic, and remarkable. There is a tribal undercurrent, calling to mind Afrobeat, or even Paul Simon’s Graceland. There is a steady onslaught of brass, and to great effect. All of these elements are couched in an indie-dance aesthetic that will tantalize the musical taste buds of fans of Björk, Animal Collective, Stereolab, and even ‘80s acts like Madness and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. In a nutshell, Rubblebucket is a dance-floor delight.
Omega La La’s highlights are many. I have already mentioned “Came Out of Lady.” The band has recorded two official versions of it: One that appeared on the “Triangular Daisies” EP that surfaced in October 2010, and a slightly different version that appears here. I prefer the former, but the latter will do just fine as well. My advice to you is, listen to it now. This song is likely to become a radio staple, and you would do well to hear it in its purest, most unadulterated form – that is, before it appears in a Target commercial or hipster film featuring Michael Cera. (When a song goes McDonald’s, there is always that French fry fallout that happens after people have heard it 86 million times. You may hate this song someday, but you will love it a long time before that day ever arrives.)
“Breatherz (Young as Clouds)” is equally noteworthy – a piece of pure musical elation, wide-eyed and ecstatic through and through. It wraps up with a liquid keyboard (or is it – gasp – a keytar?) solo that drizzles the whole affair with sonic syrup. Believe you me: It’s the kind of syrup you’ll wish IHOP would serve with its pancakes.
Omega La La’s first single, “Silly Fathers,” can be downloaded for free from the band’s site. Of course, like every fanboy who cannot help but point out that the single is not the best song on the record (and it almost never is), I cannot help but point out that “Silly Fathers” is not, well … the best song on the record. It is not nearly as unhinged or uninhibited as “Came Out of a Lady,” as euphoric as “Breatherz,” or as willfully colorful and engaging as other tracks like “Raining” or “Triangular Daisies.” I mean, in all fairness, it’s hardly a musical crime against humanity to release pleasant enough radio fare. In any case, what fails to tickle my tympanic membrane might do wonders for yours.
I have already mentioned “Triangular Daisies,” but what I failed to mention was its cat-and-mouse vocal interplay. Stereolab has always played this game well, but with a more stoic, straitjacketed approach. The members of Rubblebucket, on the other hand, are not interested in maintaining a stone-faced French façade. They nimbly maintain a push-me-pull-you vocal dynamic that feels complex without also feeling contrived.
Elsewhere on the record, the band reveals its comfort with experimentation. On “L’Homme,” which is French for “I have no idea what this song is about,” vocalist Kalmia Traver sings in (you guessed it) French. Three minutes into the song, thanks to a pitch-shift pedal or something like it, the band puts the song through a taffy pull of sorts – stretching it, twisting it, and aerating it. It’s molten musical bliss.
The song “Lifted/Weak Arms” is another one of my favorite experimental left-turns. It churns along like a lazy river before undergoing something of a sudden personality change. The song’s psyche cracks and vocalist Traver begins speaking in a detached voice from somewhere deep inside the listener’s brain. She climbs the brainstem as if it’s a tree, and as if she is a psychic member of the Sierra Club. In short, it’s weird.
If, as a listener, you are not afraid to venture on a brain safari with a band of musical miscreants, Rubblebucket is your band. If I can make my wife hold still long enough, I may play all of Omega La La for our indwelling daughter, and she may emerge in October with rainbow-colored skin – a testament to the powers of a band intent on spraying colorful musical graffiti all over the interior of your skull.
Visit Rubblebucket at: http://rubblebucket.com/
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.primeparentsclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/author2.jpg
[author_info]About the Author
Chad Thomas Johnston writes music reviews on Prime Parents’ Club under his column, Somewhere Over the Audio Rainbow. He is an aspiring author, sonuva’ preacha’ man, PhD-dropout, singer/songwriter, daydreaming doodler, cinemaddict, & pop-culture obsessive.Visit Chad at his subterranean, subcutaneous Interweb lair: http://chadthomasjohnston.com/, or on Twitter as @Saint_Upid.[/author_info]