Monday, 25 January 2010

Black Gold - Rush Album Review (2010)

A new review for AltSounds...

Sometimes two people are all you need to make a band. The Brooklyn duo Eric Ronick and Than Luu have been making music and touring (with an extended line-up) since 2006 and now release the debut album Rush (possibly a tribute to the Canadian rock powerhouse, but more likely to be a simple way of summing up the euphoria of making your first record…). Made during various tours, when the band took breath to form a solid collection of songs, Rush is a seemingly random, wandering fusion of rock and sleek piano-led pop.

Rush opens with two of the album’s best songs. Detroit buzzes with dirty guitars, an anthemic chorus and affectively makes use of layered vocals. Into Plans & Reveries and the piano has a Fleetwood Mac feel, with Ronick doing a passable impression of Lindsey Buckingham. Again the vocals are a highlight, into the finale. After a great start, Rush stutters slightly. Breakdown suffers from a mismatch of subject and upbeat, almost celebratory sound. The electronic opening, piano and soft vocals lead to a garbled hook and simplistic chorus. The song, a recent single, is about a minute too long and quickly gets repetitive.

The album doesn’t pickup again until the glorious Shine. A fantastic song, all structure and melody, great vocals (again) and middle of the road pop at its best. The way the song changes pace effortlessly is supreme song crafting. Idols is very different but almost as good. A lower register for Ronick is a refreshing change from his usual drift into falsetto; this sounds like The Libertines, especially on the verses. Another great juxtaposition of flowing verse and stomping chorus. To complete a great mid-album trilogy, The Comedown is different again: soulful, funk-pop vocals and great vibe. The guitar work is the best on the album. After two minutes it transforms into The Small Faces, which is never a bad thing.

There are three noticeable ‘ballads’ on Rush. The first is Silver which never really gets going. The song is lumbering, slightly sinister and packed with military drums. Much better is the closing pair of Canyon and After The Flood. The former, a six and half minute epic, starts slowly before becoming one of the highlights; the most open and heartfelt songs on the album, about separation and loss. “This canyon between us. One push into dust”, sings Ronick earnestly. It is a simple metaphor brilliantly observed as the song unfolds. The latter is more emotional but overtly dramatic. Another strong vocal is impressive but an odd downbeat way to end the album.

Like any music produced by ‘multi-instrumentalists’, there can be a lack of cohesion (the band could really use a full time drummer) but in this case it is grounds for expansive ideas and freedom. Occasionally you get bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys who manage both but Ronick and Luu throw everything into a record that transcends typical genres while maintaining the ethos of the American independent scene. Consequently the music does hit and miss, usually the former and both within the same song, as rampant thoughts force new directions. And no one would want to stop that. As multi-instrumentalists Ronick and Luu blend perfectly and sound for the most part like a well-organised five piece, such is the work they put into every song. A solid debut.
--CS (for AltSounds)

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