Since 2005 the name `Spencer Krug’ has appeared on no less than 14 different releases, both EPs and LPs alike. More significantly these releases are spread through five different band projects where he has been either the leader in charge or a prominent co-conspirator. This is impressive stuff, particularly when you read glowing review after glowing review with each release. Let it be said he has never made, nor been involved in a weak record.
Like-minded indie music fans desperate for a musical argument could, if all else fails, fight over their favourite Spencer Krug featured release. For me it’s a tie between the better-known Wolf Parade and his brainchild Sunset Rubdown, mainly due to how much I enjoy Spencer’s whoops and yelps as lead vocalist. For Sunset Rubdown, Dragonslayer arrives in the wake of 2007’s brilliantly baffling Random Spirit Lover, which split listeners who were prepared to sit down and give it a chance and those who couldn’t be bothered. I can understand both attitudes, as some days I would put it on and be engrossed by all its ambition, randomness and sheer euphoria, whereas other days I couldn’t even get to the end of track one as I would find it too noisy, too complicated…too random.
Dragonslayer, then, is the accessible little brother (if you could call anything Spencer Krug is involved in `accessible’) of Random Spirit Lover. Track one, “Silver Moons,” is a slow piano-thumping opener about…God knows what! Try deciphering “and silver moons belong to you, I’m off to the ballet and to practice all these ancient ways, tell the new kids where I hid the wine, tell their fathers that I’m on my way…. Singing.” I could conduct similar tests on the other seven tracks on this album but I’m confident I’d get the same reaction.
“Black Swan” is an epic seven-minute fantasy about Ghosts, Kings, Queens and Hearts where newest band member Mark Nicol is given free reign to impress us on bass and percussion. “Black Swan,” along with track 8, the 10-minute `Dragon’s Lair’ could have fit in well alongside tracks on Random Spirit Lover. “Nightlingale/December Song” is stunning with its tribal rhythm opening followed by some Wild West guitar chords, and Krug coming in with his unique singing style. It sounds like they’ve taken a Gallic folk song about Virgins, Fireworks, Holy Water, Nightingales and Nashville, and adding all their tricks, turned it inside out. Special mentions are reserved for “Paper Lace” and “You go on ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)” which appeal to my alt-pop tastes. What I love about the music of this band and particularly this album is that for all its randomness, it’s obvious they know what they are doing and are deceptively careful and particular with what they do. Not only does the album get catchier with repeated listens, but each song, somehow, gets catchier as it reaches its 5, 6 or 10 minute-mark climax.
I wouldn’t call this record a `crossover,’ but even with the usual cryptic medieval lyricism, the songs on Dragonslayer are steadier and a bit more cohesive than those on Random Spirit Love, and for that reason it’s that much more appealing. Die-hards may want it to sound more fucked up, but this is great stuff by a band finally finding their feet and even out-parading Wolf Parade.
Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer
Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction
Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
MP3: “Idiot Heart”