[2 May 2006]
It’s rare that a band can sound like they’re coming from a particular time and place, while not getting stuck to contemporary circumstance alone. TV on the Radio and the Rapture come to mind as recent standouts that represent the best of their respective genres, and at the same time reach beyond simple categorization. It’s a tight wire to walk: on one hand doing justice to your influences, while on the other hand not drowning in the passing styles that end up dating a band.
It would seem that Rahim might be that rare band whose stylishness could last. I’ll refrain from dubbing them timeless, since they’ve only just released their debut record. But judging from the progress made since their debut EP, Jungles, they should have a lot more waiting that would earn them such praise. They’ve fast emerged from their Dischord post-hardcore shell and have staked a claim on respectability in their own right with Ideal Lives.
On this, their debut long player, the NYC-based rhythm mavericks take their fist-pumping agit-pop to a new level. Plugging the gaps with actual songwriting, Ryan McCoy (bass, percussion, vocals, keyboards), Michael Friedrich (guitar, percussion, vocals), and Phil Sutton (drums, percussion) have created a likeable and exciting album. They maintain the gym class hyper style of Jungles and add to it a diversity of song and structure. That means there are slower, less-danceable numbers served along with the herky-jerky provisions. And like the Rapture’s Echoes, they’re able to sustain an entire album thanks to such a breadth of expression.
Never mind song to song, Rahim seem to balance between different poles almost note to note. They switch between reflection and action consistently and effectively throughout Ideal Lives, and that prism effect keeps you coming back to songs like “Only Pure” and “Desire” over and again. Syncopated guitar and voice deflect off the insistent beats and it shines bright and precarious. Rahim kick it on a glass dancefloor.
Notwithstanding the unsurprisingly snarty vocals, Ideal Lives keeps you guessing throughout. The band switches gears at the drop of a hat and is able to pull off a variety of modes. It’s a beautifully conceived (and sequenced) album in that way – as if it were permanently set on shuffle. The twerpy vocals can be off-putting, however, especially in the midst of J. Robbins’s (the Promise Ring, the Dismemberment Plan) open-concept/hollow production. But when the band is firing on all four cylinders (guitars, drums, keyboards, voice), their sound is full-fledged and the vocals make more sense.
On Ideal Lives, Rahim sound decidedly contemporary, without coming up lame to the worst of genre stylistics. They come off as emo and dance punk and post-hardcore, but they avoid the uninspired characteristics that render other such bands so datable. And to this band’s credit, genre touchstones don’t do Rahim justice. They’ve still got a ways to go if they want to become exceptional, but it sounds like they’re on a right path.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/rahim_ideal_lives/