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Sunset Rubdown @ Sala Rossa May 2007

Posted by Trixie / May 9, 2007

20070509_sunset.jpgA common lament these days is that indie rock has become all art no rock; too much of it is stultifyingly twee and precious. Certainly, there is a fine line between an elevated agony, with all the theatrics or mania that may require, and the tiresome posturing of psycho-socially stunted wusses.

Personally, I am quite forgiving of the self-indulgent, the tormented, the dweebie, the faltering, the hyper-referential—what would post-punk be without such preoccupations? But it’s easy to lose interest when a good heady dose of sex is utterly absent from the mix. As a friend of mine lamented after seeing The Decemberists, “It made me desperate to see a band with tight pants and hard cocks.” I too am tired of the feeling that a lot of bands would rather be reading about it than doin’ it.

The sex element is part of why (to take two Montreal shining lights for an example) I will always prefer Wolf Parade to Arcade Fire. I feel almost sacrilegious saying it, but when I saw one of the Arcade Fire shows at the Ukrainian Hall this March, despite being fully impressed by a great performance, I was sort of bummed out to be reminded that, live, Arcade Fire is squarely a Dork Band. Energetic, evocative, even magical—but just really not sexy. I kept wanting Win Butler to just loosen up and swagger around a bit.

Wolf Parade’s sex factor comes predominantly from Dan Boeckner’s strung-out rock n’ roll vibe, Arlen Thompson’s hard-hitting drums, and the overall frisson that always seems to be on the verge of erupting into chaos. (It also comes from the well-known back-story of drunken antics—them boys are wild!)

While Spencer Krug is of course part of this gestalt, he would seem to be more from the camp of the neurotic than the erotic. Certainly, with Sunset Rubdown his jittery song stylings reveal even further a particular mental stripped-nerve effect.

Krug’s lyrics and musical structures tread the path of the obsessive compulsive, full of anxious and increasingly insistent reiterations, with a compelling logic that helplessly fractures and doubles back upon itself. But though it dwells in a rarefied air, Krug’s music avoids the sexless taint that might make it just an exercise in self-absorption.

For one thing, it vibrates with a touching and pained emotional immediacy. And take, for example, “Us Ones In Between” and its poignant commingling of erotic/romantic despair with a glut of polymorphously perverse body/tongue/consumption imagery.

Though Krug’s music suggests the mental/psychic processes of the endless spiral, it still manages to travel outwards, to communicate, and to do so with rawness and powerful urgency.

Of course, the overall performance had everything to do with the impression of vitality:
Last time I saw Sunset Rubdown at Sala Rossa the elements were evidently in place for a spectacular show, but didn’t quite fall into place. This time the band came together and really ran with it. A friend remarked that the unexpectedly heavy guitar, thanks to Michael Doerksen, was a nice grounding touch.

And much of the band’s charm comes from Krug’s occasional stage banter, which is very dry, and really quite adorable. Of the headband that has become a signature accessory once the sweat starts to pour, Krug drolly remarked: “Not fun.” Long pause. “Not fun.” Pause. “Utilitarian.”

Not much else about Sunset Rubdown is utilitarian, nor is it exactly fun, but this band is so provocatively idiosyncratic and highly-charged as to make art music damned arousing.

Photos from Flickr user joshc

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