The Rosebuds
Night of the Furies
Merge
2007
B+



the Rosebuds third album, Night of the Furies, ditches the indie signifiers that blurred the aural distinction between them and a clutch of early noughties indie acts. Guitars are buried in the mix; nostalgic whimsy is beaten into something darker. It’s not exactly a scaling-back—there’s still plenty going on in these rich, dark-chocolate songs—but as the Rosebuds have streamlined to two full time members, so the songs no longer sound like cheerful committee-efforts wrestled to a cozy, amicable standstill in the middle of Indie Park.

It’s whimsy gone serious, or almost. Where The Rosebuds Make Out was dreamy songs about road trips and kisses, in which occasionally synthesizer lines paid tribute to the idea of something more serious than the second-hand refurbished guitar pop that filled out the album, Night of the Furies has a dark, lambent grace illuminated by moonlit synthesizers. Call it Disco ‘Buds, not Buds-lite. A fully-posable sobriety counters any looming campiness, freighted by the not-quite-concept of the album, a doomed romance between a man and a Fury. The man sings songs that seduce and also, according to the liner notes, “loved dogs and birds and was a very sensitive, good-natured individual.” You’d almost think they were taking the piss, except that the Rosebuds have always been musical Cheshire Cats, their pop smiles suspended amidst deeper stuff.

The Rosebuds have a thing for epic, massive choruses—not U2-epic, with the emphasis on catharsis, but epic like James, tidal and lunar-compulsive, though darker than anything James has imagined. The Rosebuds have always been a little arch, their boho crooning seldom showing any teeth, but unlike some of their earlier material on Night of the Furies the lovely engulfs the lackadaisical. And they appreciate the value of brevity and an early exit—at nine songs, the record is over in under forty swift minutes. We should all be as wise in understaying our welcome.

Is it possible the Rosebuds are secretly doing for the seasons what Sufjan is doing for the states—the autumnal decline of Birds Make Good Neighbours following on the summery disregard of Make Out? Whether or no, Night of the Furies acutely evokes the displaced longing of winter—the pathetic fallacy of “Hard choices brought the winter to our home,” (“Hold on to This Coat”), the way the chord shifts implausibly to major in the midst of the first-snow poignancy of “Silence by the Lakeside.” Is it damning to call a record that can do all this “mature”?

On the older albums, the Rosebuds’ synthesizers could sound like reinforcements parachuted in to cover for inadequate guitars or weak songs, but no longer. The front-and-center synths of Night of the Furies sound like a band hitting its stride, giving the epic, addictive structure of the levels in an old platform video game—cumulatively ascending or descending for the climaxes, with many diverting ups and downs in between and much running, climbing, and heroic leaping-across. (I’m pretty serious about this analogy—it precipitated several hours of keyboard-thumping regression when I should have been doing other things, not least writing this review).

Take, for example, the delicious, seductive “I Better Run,” a dark nightmare pursuing a fuzzy bass riff that gestures in fifths like the come-hither of a swayed hip. Kelly Crisp sings in a low, seductive register about a family’s mysterious mortality: “She’s probably dead, but dead / In a secret place / From drugs, dirty murder, or some such thing / Under a bridge, in a trailer, or in the woods / I’ve got to leave, yeah I think I should.” The song imbues fear with a kitschy, catchy sex appeal—the album’s cover features a pale, white-clad woman in a dark wood, one dress strap slid down over the arm. Is she a Fury or the Fury’s lovechild? Did she kill her family, or is she running for her life? And, with that juicy “Woah-oh” chorus, aren’t we all enjoying this a little too much?



Reviewed by: Andrew Iliff
Reviewed on: 2007-04-17
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