Live Review: Sunset Rubdown, Friday, June 26 @ Doug Fir
He's the busiest man in show business and he still leaves it all on the stage. His name is Spencer Krug, and he's indie rock's version of Ashanti—always busy with a collabo or side project. The tireless Canadian poet graced the Doug Fir's stage Friday evening.
One ought to be weary of a man who has ten full-time jobs. It's just not natural. But Krug has been doing it for so long and doing it so well that it's simply assumed he sleeps about as much as a robot. He pours his efforts evenly into Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes, Fifths of Seven and Swan Lake. But in Sunset Rubdown he's chief orchestrator; the commanding, war-crying pianist with an affection for dazzling lyrics and multi-chaptered tracks.
The band's newest work, Dragonslayer, dropped just days prior to the group's Portland appearance. Krug and company were eager to show off their new wares, barely pausing to classify the crowd as “nice” and “sweet.” And though the record's been described as the outfit's most accessible album, they seemed eager to display the radiant creative energy that beams whenever they all occupy a room together.
Older anthems like “The Empty Threats Of Little Lord,”—so wonderfully scattered and elongated it took the track's signature chant to put me back in time and space—and “Us Ones In Between,” played as a touching and vibrant encore, pleased the nostalgic crowd. Their rousing take on “The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life” secured backup vocalist and sampler Camilla Wynne Ingr's abilities and extremely complimentary pipes. Next to Krug's distant, shaky ways, Ingr plays an all-important grounding role. The song's charging drums and lazerfight-esque keyboards were enough to get people at least thinking about pulling off a tribute dance move to the late MJ (RIP).
The newer tracks saw a it more of Krug behind the guitar, a position he's perfectly comfortable with. He may not be as dark and brooding when not hunched over his keyboard, but he plays the guitar with the same rowdy, minor-key-adoring fashion. Many tracks sound restless and fidgety, trimmed with nervous guitar scratching. The new single “Idiot Heart” is the perfect example, beginning bashfully in a go-it-alone sort of way before the rest of Sunset Rubdown explodes, building on Krug's open-ended intro and nailing down his offbeats and soaring voice. All at once it reminds of rock ‘n' roll, '80s pop, post-punk and glam rock.
Be still, testy woman in the back. Although Sunset Rubdown never played “Shut Up I Am Dreaming Of Places Where Lovers Have Wings,” a song I too was even pulling for, the band just didn't need to. Its set went beyond what was necessary to leave me with a golden first impression. Another song, no matter how good, simply would have been too much of a good thing.