The Rainbow Family
The Rainbow Family EP
ffer me a choice between music that sounds good and music that is good, and I’ll opt for the former twice daily and three times on Sunday. I mean, I love a good record from La Monte Young or Black Dice or whoever just as much as the next fellow, but it’s been my experience that records like that only really “work” when you treat them like events to be respected.
Stylus’ audience is canny enough to make the logical inference as to where a band that calls themselves the Rainbow Family falls on the sounds-good/is-good measuring stick, but I’ll spell it out anyway: songs like “Mr. Picture Perfect” or “This Is Not a Circular” are the kind of things that I could play around my mom. Hell, given that she grew up while the idiom the Rainbow Family step into so effortlessly on those songs was learning how to walk, she might even like them more than me.
The group’s self-titled debut EP may be one of the most authentic modern Britpop records to surface yet—insofar as it fetishizes not just the Beatles and Status Quo, but the whole project of making pop music that everyone can enjoy. They haven’t given us many songs to work with (only five songs on the EP, including one pretty [if superfluous] instrumental track), but every second of songcraft that’s emerged from their camp so far is an unmitigated joy to listen to.
Therein lies the rub, though: the most compelling thing about the Rainbow Family’s EP is just how much work it sounds like went into its creation. This isn’t a record that sounds like it was released so much as one where some outside agent managed to pry the band’s fingers off it; the glistening pop shine of the songs’ melodies and arrangements belie an almost worryingly compulsive eye for musical detail, from the way “I Can See a Rainbow” suddenly stands up straight and looks you right in the eye to the way “Mr. Picture Perfect” manages to incorporate a snappy, lite-jazzy little vocal flourish which, almost four months after finding the record, still has me straining my ear to determine whether or not it goes “Shut the fuck up.”
I mean, hell, even “When California Began,” the instrumental track placed at the end of the EP, doesn’t feel like a waste of time; its arch synth loops, arguably pretty enough to stand up on their own merits, crash against each other with the grace of an amateurish attempt at Vangelis-style synth-pomp.
The fact that all this close reading and chin-stroking analysis is hardly necessary to enjoy (nor, to be fair, does it fundamentally justify) the pleasures that music like this has to offer is, of course, completely beside the point; this exists because it’s fun to listen to, plain and simple. But just because it sounds good doesn’t mean it can’t be good, too—hell, if you get as much mileage out of this record as me, the way it sounds may ultimately be a mere bonus.
Reviewed by: James Cobo
Reviewed on: 2006-12-12