Random Spirit Lover
’ve read approximately 16 Random Spirit Lover reviews prior to writing this and I’m pretty certain that if you asked all 16 reviewers what this album is about, they couldn’t give you a straight answer. I can’t blame them. I’d bet Spencer Krug doesn’t even knows exactly what half these words mean. In the reel that flickers inside my head, it plays like The Chronicles of Narnia re-written entirely from memory by Guillermo Del Toro, with a soundtrack composed by a super-group of David Bowie, Frog Eyes, and the ghost of Elliot Smith. It would do horrible at the box office.
But this isn’t a movie. According to clock in the corner of my screen it’s 2:27 a.m. on an early Thursday morning and this review is long overdue. This is my fourth draft. Or maybe my fifth. I’ve lost count. Every last one of them was pretentious gibberish. I can’t guarantee that this won’t be pretentious gibberish, but at the very least it’ll be less disingenuous. According to my iTunes, this is my 17th time listening to Random Spirit Lover and still I can’t quite get a hold of it. It’s a dense epic sprawl of a record. If you listen to it enough, I’m reasonably sure you’ll start to go a little crazy. For a long time, I couldn’t even bring myself to play it. It seemed to only make sense, drunk, rambling, stoned in the ashy delirium of 3:00 a.m revelation. With a frozen winter nightmare vibe that hits you at some raw intestinal level, this is the sort of thing that sounds fit for a long car ride to the funeral of a close friend, rain clouds cackling overhead, setting the sad soundtrack to the inherent smallness and fragility of life.
Its genius lies in the balance of its nearly impenetrable density and its incredible ability to cut through to a certain primordial simplicity, like watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, or stars revealing themselves in clean glittering clusters following a hard rain. It’s atavistic and painfully honest, to the point where there’s something inherently embarrassing in its confessions. Hell, it’s called Random Spirit Lover. That sounds like the name a hack comedy writer would conceive for an “occult porn” flick that Elvira would rent in a low-budget Hollywood re-make of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.
If anything, Random Spirit Lover, reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth for the way in which it crafts a complex, emotionally resonant adult fairy tale. And like any fairy tale, it requires a willful suspension of disbelief. Each song in and of itself is a weird tesseract to warp through, passing into a vivid cosmology of courtesans, failed heroes, snakes, stallions, leopards, and various other animals that added together would probably account for 22 percent of the San Diego Zoo. You have to ignore this record’s excesses and pretensions, it’s herky-jerky pacing and its song titles including “Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days” and “Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!” (the latter of which has a reasonable shot at being the title of the next big Southern ring-tone rap song).
Like its predecessor, Shut Up I Am Dreaming, Random Spirit Lover is a coming of age story at its most primal level. As with any great coming-of-age story, it concludes with an open ending. Krug is the rare songwriter capable of writing songs that can mean 1,000 things to a 1,000 people, an opacity that lends itself to a sort of timelessness that allows you to believe that if you play this in 50 years it’ll retain the same sort of mystery and magic that it holds today. The only thing that’s clear about this record is its ability to touch on the black and white absolutes that govern the rhythms of everyday life: heartbreak, loss of innocence, betrayal, death, et al. Most importantly, it does so imbued with a sense of the wonder and magic of childhood, while simultaneously retaining the gravity and clouded wisdom of age.
I suppose you probably want to know what it sounds like, but that’s not the point. Like all great art, the genius isn’t in the seams of its construction, but instead in the strength of emotion that it evokes. And c’mon, it’s the Internet, just google Sunset Rubdown “Random Spirit Lover” Reviews. (Here, I’ll do the work for you.) If you didn’t like the first two records or don’t like Wolf Parade, this isn’t going to change your mind. But if you’re already among the converted, Random Spirit Lover is a second straight masterpiece from arguably the most talented songwriter of this generation. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to bed. God knows that after listening to this for the last five hours straight, it’s going to infect my dreams. Well, that and the fact that this exists.