If you’ve built your career on obscurity, what does it mean to develop confidence in clarity? If your whole oeuvre was predicated on showing just enough but not too much, how do you turn on the floodlights, dust off the cobwebs and still remain what you’ve always been? Dragonslayer is Sunset Rubdown woken up, stretched and ready to be taken for what they are, without overdubs, without obliqueness, without conceit. Well, to an extent. It’s still Apollo kissing the valley girls rather than, y’know, Dave. But at least it’s not secret knowledge. That shroud of mystique has been attractive in the past, but it’s not necessary any more.
The lyrics, tangled in metaphor as they are, are sometimes staggeringly beautiful. Couplets or even turns of phrase alone can be blinding the way a blizzard is, or take out your stomach the way a rollercoaster does. “I’d like to watch the white flash of your heels/As they take turn breaking the desert heat/and beckon me in languages I’ve never learned.”
If you’ve been following Spencer’s mind from project to project, you’ll know Call It A Ritual on the last Wolf Parade album saw him drive, accompanied, into the desert. Is this a sequel? Are these swatches in a great quasi-literary tapestry that will eventually come together and allow itself be read as biography, psychology and not-quite-literature? It hasn’t felt like that much up to now. But with every extra watt of light shed onto the songs, there’s a distinct and ongoing impression of being allowed a glimpse at some hitherto forbidden truth.
And hey, there’s music here too. Apologies if I’m coming off a bit Richard Ellmann in that regard. There are songs. Great songs. Silver Moons is understated and mature, but atmospheric and affecting. Idiot Heart is ALMOST danceable. Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh! is careful and spidery, then nostalgic and celebratory, then slightly sinister and inquisitive. Intelligent indie rock, perfected after three albums, and smelling distinctly of a band on a hot streak.
Then there’s You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II). As smart as Mending of the Gown, as obscurely heartfelt as Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts, as sad as Stadiums and Shrines II, it is, dreadfully aware of this blog’s penchant for hyperbole and ploughing on regardless, a masterpiece. There is no corner Spencer Krug can’t turn in a song, and there is no human feeling he can’t expose once it’s turned. In earnest, if it wasn’t for a misstep or two (Swan Lake adaptation Paper Lace in particular), this would be one place higher, if not at the top outright.
Interview from Totally Dublin. Plenty of Spencerian exegetics on the blog in the past. Sorry if anyone’s missing context for any of the song names and stuff, but I’ve written Krug panegyrics too many times to still do the background.