A friend of mine, a guy in Montreal with moderate moving-and-shaking clout, a guy who hears a lot of music and is no dewy-eyed dilettante, says that Sunset Rubdown is the greatest band in the world. He’s not really talking about their records – he means the band, the bodies on a stage, the musicians shaking songs from their instruments. He goes to their concerts and feels like the room’s become a planetarium or an observatory, like the ceiling’s opened right up, like the heavens have been strewn across his field of view.
This is an interesting perspective because the typical view is that Sunset Rubdown is “merely” a Wolf Parade side-project. There are a lot of reasons why this is so: Wolf Parade was the first band to break out, they were signed to the bigger label (Sub Pop vs Absolutely Kosher, though the upcoming Sunset Rubdown album is due on Jagjaguwar), and it’s Wolf Parade who were touted by Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire. But if nothing else, history tells us otherwise. Sunset Rubdown predate Wolf Parade. Long before Spencer Krug teamed with Dan Boeckner in Victoria, Krug was messing about on his own under the Sunset Rubdown name. His first record, Snake’s Got a Leg, is noisy & rattling, a little inaccessible but extremely compelling.
Though “I’ll Believe in Anything, You’ll Believe in Anything” might be Wolf Parade’s greatest song, it was first recorded by Sunset Rubdown and this early version typefies the project’s early aesthetic. Scattered, jumpy, and yet fiercely feeling – a little like getting mugged in an alley.
With the advent of Wolf Parade, and their success, Krug’s Sunset Rubdown work moved away from the layered synthlines of the first record – a choice further underlined as he gathered his band. Shut Up I Am Dreaming was released last year, preceded by an EP. As made clear by the opening track, “Stadiums and Shrines II”, the new Sunset Rubdown was offering something very different from Snake. The modern band isn’t just Krug, nor is it restricted to synths, guitars and drums – there are strings and even horns. They’re a different beast than that initial solo project, and yet still there’s something of Snake‘s desperation. A familiar, wild form of panic.
Spencer Krug’s become a kind of Dave Grohl for Canadian indie rock (besides Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, hear his work in: Frog Eyes, Swan Lake, Fifths of Seven), and Sunset Rubdown’s present lineup reflects his roving.
Its members have day-jobs in acts like Pony Up and The Luyas . Whereas Wolf Parade play a weird, schizoid rhythm & blues, Sunset Rubdown play more with collage, chamber rock, the Scott Walker wing of the singer-songwriter genre. “Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days”, from the upcoming Random Spirit Lover, is part indie-rock stomp, part medieval madrigal. It lurches like an overgrown beast, okay like an enormous leopard, from one idea to another. And yet always Krug’s fearsome fairy-tale lyrics: “And you’re the one whose wild hide will weather in the weathering days to a leather for princes to lay down their princely white hoods of hair.” It’s a baffling, beautiful, hungry music, that summons whole worlds to it. And when they return to the stage in October, playing as part of the Pop Montreal festival, we’ll have the chance to evaluate again whether they’re perhaps the greatest thing going.
1220 St. Catherine Street East, Montreal, QC Saturday, Oct 6th Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North Sixth St ,Brooklyn, NY Monday, Oct 8th Doors at 8PM $15 Advance $17 at the Door
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