Album Review :
Rodeo Ruby Love - This Is Why We Don't Have Nice Things

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Artist: Rodeo Ruby Love

Album: This Is Why We Don’t Have Nice Things

Label: Crossroads of America Records (XRA)

Release Date: June 29, 2010

Reviewer: Eric Pettersson

Tracklisting

  1. Elizabeth
  2. America’s Funniest Home Videos
  3. Secrets
  4. Black Sunday
  5. The Melody
  6. The Coming Up Roses
  7. Beast of Joy
  8. Kind to Me
  9. Rickey Henderson
  10. No One But Us
  11. Josephine
  12. Careful with that Axe

I’ll admit it. By now, I get a little giddy every time a new album from XRA shows up in my mail. For the past few years, they’ve been putting out nothing but some of my favorite new music, from Alexander the Great to Metavari, Husband&Wife to Frank Schweikhardt. The people at this small, Indiana-based label know how to pick honest, authentic, thoughtful, and talented artists. This trend continues with their latest release from Rodeo Ruby Love.

I downloaded This Is Why We Don’t Have Nice Things, hit play, and within thirty seconds I was writing an email back to the label offering my hand in marriage. The opening acoustic track, “Elizabeth,” instantly draws the listener into a story of question and emotion, told with a heart-breaking light-heartedness. It’s so good that I was scared to keep going, for fear of being let down by the rest of the record.

The next song, “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” takes an expectedly sharp turn towards high-energy alt-rock reminiscent of good 90’s pop-punk. The two best things about this song, along with others like “Kind to Me,” is the strong vocal harmonies and the reggae/ska flair thrown in during bridges and other parts of songs. We’re talking horns, up-strums, the whole thing. Without losing the emotional depth of the past decade, Rodeo Ruby Love brings back the fun of the decade before that. The intrinsic paradox is the genius of this record, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where music is going for the next ten years. For better or worse, emo left a permanent mark on us, and we simply can’t go back to singing goofy songs about ice cream or poop. Yet all this introspection and social criticism is exhausting, and we need to get moving and have fun again. The resulting music is something like what Rodeo Ruby Love does here, and I expect to see much more of it in the near future.

Things slow down for the first half of “The Melody,” which begins with a piano and a provocative line about salvation. Energy kicks in with electric guitars and that classic punk bass-line (you know the one), eventually climaxing in a passionate plea of “Lord, I want to be forgiven!” Spiritual themes are present throughout the album like this, mentioned off-handedly or in unexpected ways. The opening lyrics of “No One But Us” come straight out of the Psalms.

Creativity continues turning this way and that, next with “The Coming Up Roses.” The track is mostly instrumental and makes you want to dance like a caveman. Fittingly, a single verse in the middle is sung entirely by gang vocals.

Two background voices show up throughout the record. One is high, giving powerful harmonies to the lead vocal. The other is strong and straightforward like a ska/jam band singer. Combine these with the bouncy drums, meandering bass, layered and chunky guitars, and “extras” like horns and bells, and you’ve got a fun, thoughtful, and all-around brilliant record.

Overall: I have to say it again: this is where I think music is going. This Is Why We Don’t Have Nice Things is both fun and thoughtful, catchy and emotionally prodding. The energy is perfectly balanced, and the vocal harmonies are really what make the record for me. Plus, who else can get away with using some heavy 90’s punk/ska influence in a way that doesn’t sound dated?

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