Music

The Ruby Suns: Christopher

After moving to Olso, the Ruby Suns ditched the jam-band swirls for electronics. They can't quite stick the landing.


The Ruby Suns

Christopher

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2013-01-22
UK Release Date: 2013-01-28
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

The only constant in the Ruby Suns, Ryan McPhun, worked with Chris Coady to make Christopher, the Suns' fourth album. Coady's worked with Beach House and Gang Gang Dance, which explains why Christopher sounds like a second-rate version of both of those bands. If you really want to know about Christopher, here it is: a largely unambitious electro-dance album that doesn't work on electronic or dancing levels (exceptions, of course there will be exceptions). The real question is, Why? Why would McPhun throw out the sounds of a delightful pysch-pop band for this?

The easy narrative is that the money's in electronics days, but the more likely answer is that McPhun grew bored with being a shaggy terrier, lying around in the sun. This is the type of guy who never settles down, where pretty sounds are, you know he'll be around. It's also hard to throw around the 'cultural tourist' label to someone who actually moved from Australia to Olso, but if you take all the Ruby Suns albums together, a sense of collecting sounds starts to emerge. South Africa-by-way-of-Vampire-Weekend-by-way-of-Paul-Simon here (2008's Sea Lion), the weirdo noise pops of Animal Collective (2010's Fight Softly, still the group's best work by a long shot). There's a genuine appreciation for the music that influenced those records, and Christopher follows suit with glowing admiration for the electro-cool of Nordic pop. It even leads off with a tribute to how much it blew McPhun's mind to see Robyn in person that one time.

But the closer you get to "Desert of Pop", the more you realize it is an awful song. First off, that title, claiming Robyn is an oasis in the desert of pop. McPhun's lucky he doesn't put this shit on Tumblr, because he'd get (rightly) eaten alive by a poptimist army noting how much great music that happens to be catchy has been put out over the last three years. And then, the metaphors— McPhun compares Robyn to a bottle of tequila. Women, like alcohol can be intoxicating! One prays for his soul on that tremendous, upcoming day when he learns that some women have bodies that have curves like guitars.

The lyrics sound much clearer on Christopher than on previous Suns records, which is a shame because they're often terrible. On the next damn track, "In Real Life", McPhun talks about that time that "we got drunk until the sun went down / but it was funny, because it never did." This my friends, is comedy. He then realizes that "if time is money then money means nothing". Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Not all of Christopher is bad as all that. McPhun physically transforms himself into a spinning Lana Del Ray gif on "Dramatikk", losing himself among keyboards and warm synth machines that have been done better elsewhere, but are inoffensive. "Futon Fortress" gets points for originality. Over a quickening beat, McPhun describes barely being able to get up in the morning, and a preference for couches. The press release describes Christopher as a breakup record, if not necessarily a sad one. There are moments, like "Dramatikk" and "Futon" that capture this -- the confusing swirls of emotion, the ever-sticking cycle of negativity and hope and negativity again. They're interesting ideas, ones electronic music seem well-suited for exploring.

Mostly, though, McPhun sounds over his head. The few peaks of Christopher are heavily outweighed by its deep valleys and plodding middle ground, which pass by without so much as a signpost of remembrance. The question of why McPhun made Christopher would only be an interesting one if was any good. The real question is that why a listener, in a time where electronic music is moving and evolving faster than at any point in its history, would waste their time with it.

4

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image