SUNSET RUBDOWN – DRAGONSLAYER (JAGJAGUWAR, 2009)

What if we lived in a culture devoid of referentiality. What would our music sound like? What would we talk about? How could music critics survive? I did an interesting thing on my 1,000,000th listen of Dragonslayer, I made a quick and dirty list of musical touchstones and direct influences I could find in Mr. Krug’s newest output. This is what I got: Bryan Ferry, King Crimson, Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), and Carey Mercer (band mate of Krug’s in Frog Eyes), The Fall, Terry Riley. That’s about it. It is pretty safe to say that the voluminous output of Spencer Krug, split between Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes, and Swan Lake, exists on its own squarely within the 21st century. This is a pretty startling fact especially in the day of just about every young band ripping off the Kinks and burying everything in under an avalanche of static and tape hiss. This isn’t to say that Sunset Rubdown exists in a vacuum, in context Sunset Rubdown sounds similar to the output of every other band coming out of Montreal in the middle part of this century. But wait, wasn’t Spencer Krug in at least half of those bands? Good point Ryan. But isn’t the 21st century all about recycling old ideas into a new context. Uh, yeah, well, moving on…

The truth is, I am an unabashed admirer of Spencer Krug in every form, right now he can do no wrong. Dragonslayer is Sunset Rubdown’s, which initially started out as one of the many side projects stemming from Wolf Parade, most immediately accessible and easily listenable albums he put out. Shut up I am Dreaming and Random Spirit Lover are massive, behamoths of musical ideas and aspirations. I can only take each in moderation however, by the end of each listen my head hurts and my ears have lost years in their practical use to me. Dragonslayer isn’t Sunset Rubdown light, per say, it is as if the SD collective have taken the insane amount of musical ideas and themes that inhabit each song and liberally spread it over a whole albums worth. There are moments that grab you by the throat and never let you go, from the palm muted riffing in “Idiot Heart” to the drum ‘n bass intro to “Nightingale/December Song” (which attributes its original idea to post-minimalist Terry Riley). My favorite track is of course “Paper Lace”, easily the most arresting song on February’s Swan Lake’s Enemy Mine. It is a curious idea to cover your own song on an album of only 8 songs, but the alternate arrangement is an almost Caribbean by the way of Paul Simon jam, I’m so glad he didn’t choose an acoustic version. It wouldn’t be a SD album without self-referentiality and reoccurring themes from past albums and projects. For example “You Go On” is almost the coda to Random Spirit Lovers “Trumpet! Trumpet! Toot! Toot!”, and Idiot Heart contains the lines “if If I was the horse/I would throw off the reins”. I’m not sure if any of this makes sense if you aren’t a rabid Spencer Krug fan like me. But if you are you will understand while I am calling this one of the best releases this year.

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