Friday, August 9, 2013
Ruby Suns Christopher. Robin Thicke is the target. His face emblazoned on a billboard buried in the scrub oak alongside the desert highway in the heart of hirsute Ryan McPhun. The dad with the hair, the majesty of low expectations and some strange level of swagger and of course there is the inexplicably world conquering success, there is that. Ryan McPhun had a conflagrant van on the side of a Washington state highway at their near peak and well...they did provide the soundtrack for a Microsoft commercial but then it was Microsoft and it wasn't Apple. Jet had an Apple commercial and they are probably best friends with Robin Thicke these days. My assumption that this is meant to be a commercial dance pop record could be incorrect. Sex is camouflaged and so commercial success is hardly inevitable. They can't shake a desire to make the next Power, corruption and Lies. It's not particularly danceable, even for those afflicted such as I am, not particular polished and it's difficult to imagine anyone singing along to the first track Desert of Pop. Myself, I find track number one toe tappingly lovely and dance to the moon while it plays. My Thursday evening was spent browsing the last of the Busby Berkley "Gold Diggers" and it didn't live up to Stephin Merrit's imaginings, not nearly as much as Gold Diggers of 1933 does but it made me imagine the importance of movies such as it in a period of time when the entire American dream consortium doubted itself and the times were filled with villains that appeared larger than life from the newsreels and how a slice of escapism could be more important than almost anything else. Times are almost certain to be as tough very soon but there hasn't been a real resurgence of compensatory fun and ridiculousness. Has there? Pop music is increasingly dour and violent and vapid and disingenuous and worst of all it is serious. Is it because Tom Ewing proclaimed his love eternal for Britney Spears all of those years ago? When the condensation off of his metal etching of Simon Reynolds that hangs above the mantelpiece drips down into his beard filled with the stilted clinical praise of modern youth and its own brand of sterility because as they pour from his lips they get caught up in the thicket of axial forests. I want a record to make the "dance of the pudding" the love of our lives, the day of reckoning when Uncle Ben dies in a tanning bed and the market crashes and my trip to Idaho is to some remote colony of militia washouts n a bivouac hidden behind terminal moraines and speakers playing Ruby Suns Microsoft commercials to throw the agents who trained at Orbitz off the scent as only the poor are relegated to Microsoft. Now to In Real Life, guitars and samplers, drums, his cotton candy voice. All sorts of cool and whirry whirrs but hardly a trifling scent of desire. This is more sedate than the first track which was a blast. Piano! Big chorus, a Celebrate the Nun chorus. It was raining earlier this evening and the Clientele were playing on the car stereo and this was the dance music of my heart in the moment that existed. The rain, the words, the poetry to inspire the heart to leap beyond imaginings. When in this EO Wilson created reality where life is rational, mechanical, pre-ordained through social chromosomes it is a wonder that love can peal, can rescue souls, and love is alive and the genetic material of a kiss can be carried forward to the end. This is calculated. As calculated as a love poem, certainly. But Robin Thicke sounds as if he's having a great time being Robin Thicke. Perhaps Ryan McPhun has more particular needs, his falsetto on Dramatikk sounds the result of a tragic childhood accident, a trip to the wrong emergency room, multiple urethras, but this song is startlingly lovely. I will admit to finding Blurred Lines truly awesome, the feelings remind me of my puppy love for Andrew WK the first time I heard him when playing him on a college radio show late in the evening that was broadcast to 11 dorm rooms in the middle of the winter of 2001. But...this music moves my heart. It is the heart that is my center of gravity, a portion of the male geography due north of Robin Thicke's ego. Next track, a Hall and Oates'ish track turned goth disco. He's not from New Zealand. He lives there now, or he lived there then, he is on Subpop and I imagine the room erupting into a flurry of funky white guys in Melvins tee-shirts doing the electric slide across the table top made of recycled condoms and ramen noodle packages, giving each other high fives because they had the balls enough to release such a daring piece of music. Or they just dreamed, collectively, that it was lovely. it is. I am inserting myself into the mind bended world of Ryan Mcphun. The world of ten dollar synthesizers and .99 apps that can recreate the way out sound from 1984. This track has a feel of a 10 mile swim through lime jello. Next track, Rush. Frightened child vocals, synthesized dyspeptic beats and swirls. Is he a one man wonder when making records now? I think they operated as a duo on record in the past. They may still do. he used to drum for the Brunettes. It seemed a heady time way back in 2005, Mars Loves Venus and venus loves mars and trees were made of pound cake and Lawrence Arabia was set free and we fell away from our navel gazing and dreamed of a New Zealand renaissance. It did not happen. Brunettes dude went emo, Lawrence was always more Gondal than Glass Town Federation and the Ruby Suns went away from limpid and turned tenebrous. Fight Softly proved difficult to love. This is less difficult. It's soothing and amorphous but I can wrap my arms around it. Hugs not drugs. Boy now. Remember when they went a bit Animal Collective? This is a remnant of that era. When Ruby Suns went Animal Collective it was a positive reinforcement for the theories of evolution, when Architecture in Helsinki followed suit it was a war crime. There are scattered heart beat syncopations and vague sentiments that seem earnest and determined in their disguised state. Does he have anything to say at all? Unlikely. This does not cause me any great consternation. if you are born with a poetic ear the likes of Alasdair from the Clientele you play slow, complicated songs with the words as highlight above a delicate underpinning. if you are Ruby Suns you scrub the air of depth, you turn to tone poems and nostalgic feelings of childhood and life within the womb when you shared the rhythm of life with a superior being. Boy is mostly awesome by the way. I am not turning deliberately vague, it is the music, blame Ryan Mcphun for my own foggy notions. When now he has turned Justin Timberlake playing karaoke versions Republic we are unserious enough about changing the world through perspiration and innuendo to find it disorienting and dreamy. he loves the Olivia Tremor Control doesn't he. He has a prescription the same as Robin Thicke, surely, but why would we compare our friend Ryan to the colossus? I am not sure. It becomes more difficult to write an entry on music you feel less invested in and it is true that while I find this warm and rewarding I won't be begging with my tender mercies for my wife to not stare out the window while I play this over the Scion's tin can and string radio speakers because it won't ever likely make it into the rotation. it is dance music for the space between my ears, the space behind my eyes, the world that was once my prison and which is now a ruminative diversion from a truly romantic life. My life is a dream at the moment. The seeds of existence have spilled in nonrandom forms and the Earth is recreated in the future that will be possessed by someone other than myself. My future is in the seed implanted in uterine walls. And when the day arrives Ryan Mcphun will be a memory. Pleasant and ethereal. He is an ethereal boy. He was once salt of the earth, flesh turned to steel and worldly and now he is trpped in a snowglobe inside a snowglobe inside a snowglobe. Last track, Heart Attack, ghosts of Julian Henry meeting his tenage girlfriend's parents and his sighs of resignation. A crescendo, dismal background vocals, charm and a falling away, will Ryan end the record with a moment of triumph or will it wither into the conformity of mediocrity? It's truly lovely. If you are just oh too cool for Robin Thicke, meaning you are not cool, you will find this thrilling and electric and a dream and when the end snatches you from your travels you will have not been burdened with dissatisfaction. High praise!