[2 August 2011]
After the Mitteleuropean stylistic diversion/palette expansion of 2009’s Ruins of Berlin, erstwhile Flat Duo Jets frontman Dex Romweber, with drummer/sister Sara (ex-Snatches of Pink) get back to doing what they do best on Is That You in the Blue?, their second album for Bloodshot. It’s's just another surf/punk/garage/spy movie/blues-fueled day at the office for the Romwebers.
With the band’s dex-terity (ha) in so many genres, the best move for listeners is to just try to keep up, and hell, if you’re not crazy about a tune, the next track will be completely different ... yet unmistakably the work of Dex Romweber. Let’s go (sub-) genre-hopping, shall we?
There’s the stripped down punk/garage of opener “Jungle Drums”; the brief flirtation with the previous record’s gypsy-rock/torch song noir “Redemption”; the go-go, horn-crazy “Gurdjieff Girl”; the loose-limbed, jazzy “Midnight Sun”; the acoustic, bizzaro “Homicide” (where Romweber trades in his croon for a rasp in a tale about drag racing, aliens and ray guns); and the bossa nova of “Brazil”, which—and forgive the geographical imprecision—splits the difference between “Havana Moon” and “Havana Affair”.
And that’s not even half the album’s tracks. Whew!
In the past, I’ve called Romweber a great guitarist for a lyricist—perhaps unfairly, as lyrical directness is a hallmark of many of Romweber’s chosen genres, but I digress—and while nothing here is truly going to change my opinion, there is a loopy, deranged brilliance to the aforementioned “Homicide”, and, it must be said, he absolutely nails the title track. Dex comes on wistful like late-period Nick Lowe (!), before baring his claws as he sings “I hope you find loneliness with him whatever dark night you’re in”, while never once letting the bitterness at his ex boil over. Well played, and Romweber wisely follow the tune with the menacing instrumental “Climb Down”; ever the axeman, he allows his guitar do the dirty work.
After all this wildness, the Romwebers close up with two relatively subdued waltzes, “I Remember Darling” (sic) and “Think of Me” that ease the listener back to civilization, and show that ol’ Dex is really a softie at heart. Of course, obscuring that heart is half the fun, but Romweber, with his genre-hopping comes perilously close to getting too carried away.