Rubber | review

Deconstructed pop music, reassembled with rock guitars, attitude and energy. Jellyfish coming face to face with Our Lady Peace. Call it what you will, Harem Scarem have completed the metamorphosis. Okay, it took several painful, post 'Mood Swings' mutations to get it right, but the finished article was worth the wait.
Maybe now the band will achieve the wider fame they thoroughly deserve. 'Rubber' (despite the bad joke band name) is a stunning album. One which reaffirms that niche popularity is fine for bands who're happy to remain anachronisms, but deeply disatisfying for a band with a depth of talent, ideas and ambition.
The album astutely avoids blatant commerciality, yet the songs have an instant appeal, and are clearly built on the same innate sense of melody and grasp of dynamics which marked out the band as a cut above the rest back in 1992. The songs are shorter, get to the point faster and exit on a high ... consequently, it takes a few listens to appreciate the razor sharp production, and arrangements which have so much going on it's easy to overlook some of the subtler touches.

Arguably, the album takes its lead from second track 'Sunshine', coproduced and mixed by OLP writer/producer Arnold (Sheriff/Frozen Ghost) Lanni, in that the band boldly mix broad brush strokes with finely textured detail, resulting in sonic swirls of sound, liberally laced with colourful melodies and escalating harmonies, punctuated by busy, ratatat rhythms.
However, 'Who Buddy' is probably the album's standout track, mixing rockabilly verses with a sublimely melodic, charged up, Cheap Trick chorus. Even here, there are hints of doowop in the bgvs and plenty of bite in Lesperance's guitarwork. 'Stuck With You' and 'Trip' adopt a jangly tuneful Anglopop style, with tough, attitudinous vocals complementing bright, brash guitars, while 'Pool Party' matches swaying Mexicali rhythms with waspish guitars and a chorus reminiscent of the first two albums.
Closer 'Everybody Else' sees the band step well outside their new norms, using acoustic guitars and cellos to counterpoint Harry Hess's forlorn, cry from the heart vocal performance, to a beat like the sound of distant thunder.
As reinventions go, this one is hugely impressive. Recommended.

Review by Brian McGowan
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