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Rubblebucket | Omega La La

Album review by John Powell

Rubblebucket | Omega La La

It’s getting pretty difficult to critique Rubblebucket, simply because from the start they broke convention, swirling jam, afrobeat, and funk into a pop-ilicious smoothie that goes down easy. They’ve grown wildly since their first LP, Rose’s Dream. Back then, they all sounded younger, fresh, and the sum of the music’s parts seemed more powerful than any of the band members alone. With the self-titled second album, they rose to their own challenge, driven more by rhythm. In fact, Rubblebucket was very much afro/groove centric, from the heavy bass to singer Kal Traver’s baritone sax.

With Omega La La, which, by the way, was posted on their website for free download, they’ve finally caught up to their music, and have taken control completely. Omega La La is a dance-based album, loaded with tasteful synth and crunchy guitars, such as on “Silly Fathers”, with a highly 80’s pop bass line, something the B-52’s could get down to. Only, don’t let me make you believe this album is cheesy or rehashed. It’s as organic sounding as anything else Rubblebucket’s produced. However, Kal and band leader/trumpeter/singer Alex Toth (and maybe some other members) have moved to NYC, and clearly that sound has rubbed off.

The opener, “Down in the Yards”, is trippy, with Kal and Alex singing together, discussing Babylon. It has futuristic percussion and bass, like a post-apocalyptic world. “We don’t need anything,” a group of vocalists sings together. Kal’s signature whirligig vocals swim off. Darby Wolf’s synth is very much Vampire Weekend, but Rubblebucket has a knack for horns, keeping things away from getting too pop-y.

“Came Out of a Lady” appeared as a single a while back, and shows up here again, revamped. It’s an instant hit. Whistling behind the chorus gives a playful air, and the bass and keys playing the same interludes are groovy. The bridge is like out of a 70’s disco tune, and the song builds and builds until it can’t go anywhere but into pure euphoric jamming.

A key track is “Rescue Ranger”. The melody here feels fresh for the band. Again, the synth is persistent. Lyrically, it’s one of the most word-full songs in Rubblebucket’s catalogue. In fact, to date, there’re more vocals than ever before for this collective, and my only critique of Omega La La has been my critique of Rubblebucket this whole time: what are they talking about?

Sometimes the songs are sensible, even narrative. Often times, however, the metaphors and images are choppy, based on their sound more than their content. Also, with a new producer, (Erick Broucek, who produced LCD Soundsystem), the lyrics and instruments kind of mesh into a Rubblebucket soup. This is okay, because the band’s best feature is its band. I mean, as a cohesive product of musicians jiving, despite the constant line-up variations, Rubblebucket has a unique and full-bodied sound. It’s just that I have a hard time picking out the lyrics. The horns and, once again, synth, sound great throughout the whole thing.

Bottom line: More from the genre-defying pros of getting down, and highly recommended.

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