Some bands you just listen to because you like the sound of their music. Some bands, however, are a little more than that. They make you feel like you want them to get into a war so you can fight for them. They make you understand why scene kids get tattoos of lyrics in curly typefaces.
There are bands that you’re loyal to because it felt like they were loyal to you. Or that’s what it feels like with Sunset Rubdown anyway. Nearly five years ago, Snake’s Got A Leg was there summing up a particular black-hole type feeling. Random Spirit Lover walked me across Liffey bridges more times than I remember, and I probably listened to the Mending of the Gown more times in my first year of college than I actually talked to anyone. And this year, Dragonslayer happened to appear at the perfect time to attach to a particular, tumultuous state of mind too.
A sad fact and widely known, however, is that the most impassionate sound to a lonely soul is so easily outgrown. Nonetheless, Sunset Rubdown have stuck with me, and going to see them live has a little bit more attached to it than, say, Deerhunter or even Deerhoof. So I arrived in close to nine and stuck up the edge to the front to catch a glimpse.
The song that ended the last Sunset Rubdown gig in Crawdaddy, The Empty Threats of Little Lord, opened tonight. Intentional or not, it added an element of continuity and seemed to almost invite you to notice that, such is the quality of Dragonslayer start to finish, songs that were encores in 08 are right at the beginning in 09. And then, before Spencer was even finished denouncing the snake, Idiot Heart, Dragonslayer’s approximation of a danceable indie hit, began clacking sinisterly.
Nearly all of Dragonslayer made an appearance, though notably no Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh. From the back catalogue: Winged Wicked Things, glowing in poetry. The Taming of the Hands That Came Back To Life, upped in tempo slightly and bacchanalian in temperament. Mending of the Gown, through the live mill and still recalling the mad preacher at the pulpit. Trumpet Trumpet Toot Toot was manic too, as usual.
But the best song was a new one, and for me the best Sunset Rubdown song full stop, putting it into “favourite songs in general” in my loose mental filing cabinet as well. You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II). I spent yesterday before the gig tweeting Krug lyrics, but you’d find it tough to top “I’d like to watch the white flash of your heels as they take turns breaking the desert heat, and beckon me in languages I never learned” no matter where you looked. Close to six minutes, it takes turns round corners and through tunnels and off cliffs, but it’s about the peak of Spencer’s five year genius streak.
I always find it hard to write about bands that I’ve written about before at length, but in the end of year review where I vastly underestimated Random Spirit Lover a few years ago I said “Random Spirit Lover sees Spencer Krug split his time between being the demon ringmaster of some sort of keyboard-led musical circus noir and being the hilltop poet of both doom and everyday wisdom.” I stand behind that description still, two years on, now that it’s clearer than Random Spirit Lover is 100 times the record I thought it was, and that Sunset Rubdown have cemented themselves in lifetime pass territory as a Favourite Band
This might be gig of the year.