hat it's so easy to deconstruct Rumskib's influences in the form of tired metaphors may disturb some potential listeners. Observe: Take five parts My Bloody Valentine, one part cheesy ‘80s pop, sprinkle a dash of Cocteau Twins, stir well. And so the originality-Nazis write them off, but what the rest of us want to know is if they write good tunes, right? Well, the answer to that is an emphatic yes, but on this occasion it'd be unfair to just leave it at that. On their debut album, these Danes have offered us just a little more.
Yes, Rumskib's influences are obvious, but the band apply them in a manner that suggests an attitude of pragmatic utility towards—rather than a reverence for—the past. There's plenty of shoegaze to go around right now, but this isn't just another novel spin on an old formula; here, the band deconstruct MBV and re-appropriate the required elements, not simply combining them with other influences, but re-working them into epic, meandering songs—songs that sound notably different from those of their obvious influences. The end result is an album that, while strongly reminiscent of the dreampop days of yore, presents a markedly different emotional experience.
While Loveless was a work of austere, admire-but-don't-touch melancholy, Rumskib not only sounds positively joyous, but invites the listener to share in its youthful enthusiasm. Unashamedly unserious, the aforementioned pop influence is evident in the synth work of multi-instrumentalist Keith Baerken and the carefree, lovestruck cooing of vocalist Tine Kortermand. The album's strongest moments, however, are delivered when the band resist simply applying a novel aesthetic to the same old pop music we've all heard before; rather, just as with their shoegazer influences, the band deconstruct bubblegum pop, taking both those sugary melodies and that carefree attitude to use in songs that, while decidedly un-pop in structure, still retain an air of adolescent exuberance.
The clash of approaches—pop-inspired juvenile saccharinity vs. shoegaze-inspired astral feedback explorations—is applied to great success. Songs begin as candy-coated sing-alongs for first kisses on summer days (albeit sing-alongs sandwiched by dense layers of swirly-feedbacked harmonies, sliding against each other like tectonic plates beneath the surface of some hazy, far-away planet), but, inevitably, some unpredictable development takes hold of the listener, ice cream cone still in hand, and lifts off the surface of the earth to engage in gleeful interstellar drone-pop bliss-out. Conversely, the weaker moments come when the band puts less effort into forging something more complex from simple source material, falling back on their relatively underwhelming capacity for more traditional songwriting, and sounding more like a second-rate Cardigans clone with Kevin Shields on guitar.
The band may have been lumped in with the shoegazer revival, but it would be misleading to paint them as mere retroist MBV-worshippers; Rumskib expands the creative vocabulary of the genre. The release lacks a certain emotional gravity that made albums like Loveless and Souvlaki true classics, but, on the other hand, those albums never sounded this damn fun. It's recognizably a debut record, but Rumskib hits the mark consistently enough, and one hopes that this band's maturing process doesn't result in them losing their flair for communicating the exhilarating adventurousness of teenage romance.
Reviewed by: Ben Good
Reviewed on: 2007-07-18