The Rosebuds: Night of the Furies
"Get Up Get Out"
"I Better Run"
(from Night of the Furies 2007. Buy/download)
I've been giving the new Rosebuds music time to sink in before I say anything about it. It's quite a departure from their previous albums, most easily glossed as "Rosebuds-go-new-wave". Given my real fondness for their prior output, I felt like I owed them more than my initial, knee-jerk "I don't like this" response. So I've listened to it plenty, and thought about it a lot. I've come to see some good things about it, but it's still not really doing much for me.
There are certainly some continuities here. Ivan Howard still has a knack for melody and nice bits of la-la-la/ooohhh-ahhh. The lyrics and overall tone carry on the darker vein the band had opened up on Birds Make Good Neighbors. Really, I think the lyrics are pretty interesting -- the overall album has a sort of Southern Gothic/Faulkneresque feel to it, with the relentless pull of grim fate hanging over the proceedings.
But earlier Rosebuds albums bounced along with a charming casual energy -- Ivan's jangly guitar, Kelly Crisp's organ, shuffling drums -- and an overall organic feel. Night of the Furies, on the other hand, is dominated by 80s synth patches and drums that are either programmed or processed so much they might as well be. Bass is far more prominent, and the guitar is pulled way back. A few changes are welcome -- it's good to hear Kelly taking more lead vocals, and the occasional touches of piano are nice -- but on the whole, the production just doesn't work for me.
And I do think it's the production more than the songs themselves, which as I noted above, have strong lyrics and a good melodic core. I wish this version was a remix album and I could hear the originals. Failing that, I suspect that they open up a bit live, especially with a fine drummer like Matt McCaughan on board. There are some live performances from SXSW here and a video here (via Scan) that seem to confirm this idea.
I'd like to think my reaction is more than simple rockism or reactionary change-is-bad sentiments. Maybe it's a bit of both, since I do feel like the production puts what could be some compelling songs at a bit of an emotional reserve, and I keep trying to imagine what they would sound like as "old-school Rosebuds songs". Maybe I'm just wrong -- Night of the Furies seems to be pretty well-received in most quarters -- but to my ears, this is a misstep by a good band. I'll definitely be looking to see what happens next.
Update 5/4: This review gets at a lot of what I was trying to say, in a much more articulate manner. Thanks Robbie!
Labels: The Rosebuds