Album Review: Rubblebucket’s Save Charlie EP

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Rubblebucket

Save Charlie EP

Communion Records

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Track Listing

  1. Save Charlie
  2. Patriotic
  3. What A Fool Believes
  4. Six Hands
  5. Save Charlie (Big Black Delta Remix)
  6. What a Fool Believes (Fun Secret Remix)
  7. Save Charlie (Chico Mann Remix)

Personnel

Alex Toth – trumpet, background vocals, bandleader

Kalmia Traver – lead vocals, tenor and baritone saxophone

Adam Dotson – background vocals, trombone

Derby Wolf – Hammond B3, Juno, Moog, Clavinet

Ian Hersey – guitar, background vocals

Dave Cole – drums

Jordan Brooks – bass

In 2012, the Brooklyn-based (by way of Burlington, VT) septet of Rubblebucket had burst out into the national scene, thanks in part to the 2011 release of the critically well-received Omega La La; a reputation for relentless touring and an ecstatically fun live show that at the time included puppets, and bandmembers jumping into the audience to play and dance with the audience; and their first appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Additionally, the Oversaturated EP, the follow-up to Omega La La was also released last year, an that effort received critical praise not just from the blogosphere, but from the likes of Paste, USA Today, Noisey and others.

  After relentlessly touring to support both Omega La La and Oversaturated the members of the band decided to slow down a little bit by playing a few festival dates, and a few one off shows. Primary songwriters and founding members, Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth also spent time making guest appearances at several Superhuman Happiness shows across the country, as well. (If you’re familiar with the two Brooklyn-based bands, that fact shouldn’t be terribly surprising as Superhuman Happiness used to open for Rubblebucket back in 2011.) Interestingly, Traver, Toth and company were also very busy writing and recording the material that wound up comprising the Save Charlie EP, an EP which will officially be released next week.

   The Brooklyn-based septet’s forthcoming album manages to reflect two a band that’s begun to craft and cement a signature sound, while subtly altering it. In particular while certain elements remain – the material is still overwhelming upbeat, and reflects the band’s commitment to playfully (and adeptly) blurring the lines of funk, pop, psychedelica, and Afrobeat with arrangements that manage to be dense, complex with a pop sensibility. But you’ll notice elements of hip hop and electro pop through the use of the huge 808-style break beats and swirling electronics on several tracks.

  Where on their initial effort, one could easily describe them as the Talking Heads meets Fela Kuti, Save Charlie has Rubblebucket sounding more like – well, Rubblebucket. In other words, it feels as though they stumbled on to something entirely new, while being familiar to those who have been following them for a while.  The first single and EP title track, “Save Charlie” is a breezy track with short, explosive bursts, boom-bap style drums, scratchy drums and swirling electronics as Traver coos the lyrics with a goofy coquettishness that feels both natural and endearing.  Strangely enough, the track also reminds me of Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” – and that’s not a bad thing because both are just a lot of fucking fun.  “Patriotic” employs a jaunty synthesizer line, regal-sounding horns that belie darkly ironic lyrics. Their cover of the Doobie Brothers hit, “What A Fool Believes” possesses an arrangement that changes the key, the tempo and subtly teases out melody to the point where it sounds almost alien – the first time I played the album and heard the track, it didn’t dawn on me that it was a cover until about 15-20 bars in. Honestly, Save Charlie is probably the loosest they’ve sounded to date, while creating the closest approximation of what you’d expect from their live sound. There are also two remixes – one by Big Black Delta and another by Chico Mann, and both remixes bring Rubblebucket’s sound straight to the club.

    The EP also marks two things to me – that moment when Kalmia Traver confidently steps out and becomes a true frontperson, and that moment when the band may become the next big thing by doing their own weird little thing with a friendly smile. It’s quickly become a personal favorite of mine, and I think it’ll not only preach to the already converted, but it’ll win over a lot of new fans. 

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