Ruby Isle’s Night Shot, with its many covers and intrepid insistence to apply arena rock guitars to nearly every track, represents the great intensifier known as pop. Ruby Isle takes hold of all that is new and untampered in popular music and stains it with the incandescent glow of electro and Boston album color schemes. These guys constitute the hungry monster that, for a brief time, covered every top song on elbo.ws. Their hunger knows no bounds, digesting everything in a magnificent feat of impropriety known as Night Shot, homogenizing each and every bit of musicianship into a blaring excretion of rousing good music, music that cannot help but revivify the motor neurons in the toes to start them tapping, jumping, dancing, like a zombie; Night Shot is postmodernity personified––incarnate and ravenous.
A friend of mine, baffled by the simultaneous cover of Stephen Malkmus’ “Baltimore” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” said of the album, “I don’t know if I love these guys or hate them.” Ruby Isle seems to have that effect on people, perpetually playing Pan on the on the arena stage, tooting along on his stupid pipes. The band has brought irreverence to untouchable heights, making it a strange new kind of purity––an ingenuousness, almost. Still, the idea that these guys, as they sing their silly songs, hold the widest grins, smeared ear to ear with the most pungent shit they could scrounge from a public toilet, is hard to ignore. This, however, doesn’t keep the Rembrandt® smile from shining…gleaming…glaring. One is in a perpetual flux of appreciation, a sinusoidal curve oscillating between the contraries: love and hate. Perhaps one is best to simply laugh with. It might be the end of art in popular music, but hey, it’s funny, right?
And whether or not there’s a definite answer to my question above should not be investigated. Night Shot is a test, a moral test. Each listener can only decide for themselves how to take it. Such could be said of all music (all art, even), but believe me…
So rather than commenting on a topic I’ve never been so adept at discussing (personal preference), I’ll simply illustrate. Employing artifice with innocence, Ruby Isle comes out of the gate as the innovators of popular music. When something isn’t bright enough, loud enough, they make it so for the masses that hunger below the superego. While not every track indulges synth effects and perpetual reverb (or at least, some tracks indulge less) many revel in it and relish the chance to release such a sound upon listeners. To best emphasize Ruby Isle’s infatuation with big, huge music with catchy choruses, one might refer to the fairly blatant reference to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at the end of “Foam Hands,” a Destroyer cover. These aspects are more than prevalent on their original work as well, though they seem to allow more room for exploration in this first part of the album (see “Blow Up,” the lead in rhythm of which seems derivative of R&B, if anything). It is hard, sometimes, to differentiate between their covers and their original work, however. Each cover, regardless of its source, seems Ruby Isle’s own, reinventing many works by simply placing them in a different context (see cover of “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel). This art, while perhaps not the most respected (see track: “Phone Call”), is a rare one, and really, perhaps one is best to simply laugh with this great piece of work.
Mark Mallman – Mr. Serious
Dressy Bessy – Electrified
Journey – Escape