via Ragged Words Release Date: 20 Jul 2009 Record Label: Jagjaguwar In Three Words: King Of Hearts Ragged Rating: 4/5
By Daniel Greenwood
Sunset Rubdown frontman Spencer Krug’s demeanour is at once stoic and downtrodden, and with Dragonslayer, the band’s third album, Krug is processing an all-consuming lovesickness. Dragonslayer is a break-up record, it’s true: “I believe she only loved my face/and maybe these days are over now,” so sings Krug on the record’s beleaguered opener ‘Silver Moons’. These issues of deceit and artifice are embellished in the album artwork – glammed-up mannequins posing against backdrops of urban decay. Most definitely, the protagonist portrayed by Krug is experiencing women troubles. But also, aside from the lovelorn swoon inherent here, there’s an attention to ageing, and the guise of sexual seductiveness disappearing with time: “Here’s a photograph for you to hold/it’s a picture of just before I got old,” as on ‘Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!’.
It’s ‘Silver Moons’ which sets the scene, with Krug and co. keen to waste no time by imbuing urgency early on. This impetus carries through when married with patience on the listener’s part, and, listen after repeated listen, the music strikes through. As ever, with any Wolf Parade offshoot, Sunset Rubdown offer treats over time, and though Krug admits to ‘pulling faces at acquired tastes’ his band are just that.
The lyrics are what grip you here, amidst what is at first a not wholly riveting instrumentation of grizzly guitars and tumbling drum rolls. ‘Nightingale/December Song’ offers vivid, explosive metaphors for Krug’s change of heart late-on, his attempt at growing old with grace: ‘You need the one who slowly burns/and burns to stay alive/…You are a vast explosion/and I am the embers’. This concession to clarity is fleeting, however. Entering upon the ‘Dragon’s Lair’, the record’s 10-minute finale, is a man looking for a ‘different kind of kill’. But it remains unclear whether our hero’s mantra of “You’re such a champion/You are a champion” is self-help or an admission to the bête noire acting as catalyst for Spencer Krug’s hot-headed wretchedness. These songs are ‘broken-hearted shapes’ and fitting pieces to the puzzle that is Spencer Krug the artist. Dragonslayer is the latest episode in an ever growing compendium of Krugisms.