Build-up and rubdown

Sunset Rubdown

Shut Up I Am Dreaming

Absolutely Kosher Records

Four out of five stars

Let’s do a quick run-through of oft-used contemporary musical themes, shall we?

First, if you watch MTV (God save your soul), you are familiar with the “TRL” fan favorite, Abandonment-with-a-capital-A. Generally characterized by its unnecessary eye shadow and cosmetic tattoos, this theme is closely related to the almost as recurrent Dejection and Misdirected-Aggression subgenre.

Ah, emo.

You’ve also got the always-successful “American Idol”-style Underdog Achievement theme-or as it is commonly referred to, Kelly Clarkson Syndrome-a sure-fire hit in all suburban homes not occupied by the aforementioned abandoned emo kids.

Then there are the relative themes tied to the C*** Rock Contingent, the We’re Cooler Than Your Mother Hipster Crew (bastards, right?), the Wanksta Gang, the Too Street To See The Strip Mall For The Trees kids, the Hardcore Has-beens, the Retros and the Junkies.

There are more, but, you know, whatever.

The point is this: As a rule, genre and thematic generalizations are like generalizations in general-vaguely useful, but never really that accurate or that great of an idea.

This is exactly why I feel bad for Sunset Rubdown.

Despite the fact that the band is doomed to a future of constant Wolf Parade comparisons (as a result of shared lead-singer Spencer Krug’s gaspy vocals and lyrical finesse), this north-of-the-border musical cooperative manages to produce a markedly unique and urgent sound-and very few people are going to notice.

Fated to a referential future, Rubdown achieves a mature, sexy and dispassionately individual sonic quality that holds equal hands with Modest Mouse and Built to Spill (check out the guitar solo on the album opener, “Stadiums and Shrines II”) as Rogue Wave and Frog Eyes.

That is to say, Shut Up I am Dreaming is a snarling, guitar-driven, emotive gut-punch, whispered by way of Krug’s clever and biting lyrics (sample song titles include “Shut Up I am Dreaming of a Place Where Lovers Have Wings,” “I’m Sorry I Sang on Your Hands That Must Have Been in the Grave,” and “Us Ones in Between). Underscoring all Krug’s vitriol is a tapestry of sorts-a patient, mercurial, tonal background that shifts and bends to accommodate even the subtlest changes from song to song, and thoroughly buoys the album.

There is a definite cinematic quality to Shut Up, which ultimately sounds like a surreal French Canadian-cum-Spanish opera of jilted loverdom and wry introspection. On the excellent “The Men Are Called Horsemen,” Krug sings of some nasty habits picked up by a lover in Europe: “It never occurred to me that the men are called horsemen there / And I am no horse / And you are no angel.”


That almost hurts as much as the subsequently resigned line from the same song, “But such ways never did stay in Madrid, did they now? / Where someone says f*** me / And someone else says OK? / If I was a horse, I would throw off the reins / If I was you.”

Speaking of rash but helpful generalizations, the preceding passages can be read as a useful primer for the entire Sunset Rubdown aesthetic: At once inclined toward romance, though stubborn enough to reject the realities of an unromantic existence; wise enough to see the speaker’s complicit role in his reality, however idealistic enough not to pay such realizations any mind.

Or, as Krug sings it on the quietly aggressive “The Empty Threats of Little Lord”:

“The podium is as high as the gallows are low / You are a beast and I am serving up your supper / ?If I ever hurt you, it will be in self-defense / ?If you ever come at me, I will hurt you, you snake / I wish you the best.”

Shut Up I Am Dreaming is a complicated vision, but one thing is certain: No matter what that vision is, it sure stings more when put so sweetly.