REVIEW: The Rubens LP
When you talk about modern-day Indie fairytales, you might mention an ittie-bittie buzz band from country NSW called THE RUBENS.
The eagerly anticipated self-titled debut, recorded in the Biggest of Apples in NY and miles from their hometown in regional NSW, delivers on the promise of a breakthrough Triple J Unearthed smash from 2011, ‘Lay It Down’.
David Kahne, producer behind releases from THE STROKES and LANA DEL REY, nabbed the Aussies and invited them to record their first full-length with him and Ivy League Music in the US of A in the early months of 2012.
Their home-spun demo versions of ‘Lay It Down’ and ‘My Gun’ remain the truest and fairest testament to their raw and undeniable talent. Some old-school fans (whom I might affectionately term pretentious purists) will notice the difference Kahne’s production has had on some songs, and prefer the original versions left on the proverbial cutting room floor.
The fact that these Menangle dudes shot to the upper echelons of the Australian Indie scene at meteoric speed has a few notable implications.
Firstly, it illustrates how wanted their unaffected, organic sound is (in the scene) right now. Secondly, first-class Industry treatment means the sound of the finished record will undoubtably vary from those early DIY recordings that got us hooked.
While the ‘Indie’ label will inevitably be applied to any independently successful artist, THE RUBENS may boast a rare brand of soulfully roots-influenced rockabilly blues that is reminiscent of early KINGS OF LEON and, dare I say it, THE BLACK KEYS.
The promise of this debut suggests a gilted road to riches (and royalties) ahead for the three Margin brothers, Sam, Zaac and Elliot, and family friend (and drummer) Scott Baldwin.
Stellar RUBENS tunes feature prominent keys, courtesy of Elliot. A mournful, bittersweet piano solo opens the album on raucous ‘The Best We Got’, and immediate favourite ‘Never Be The Same’ is a reaffirming tale of self-recovery and redemption that will bring tears to the dryest eyes. Described on their Triple J Unearthed page as “blues tunes soaked in copious amounts of soul,” these baby-faced heart-throbs-in-the-making have lived enough to have a story to tell.
‘The Day You Went Away’ is a defiant, better-off-without-you belter of heartbreak and woe, with a middle eight moment that falls to powerful silence before call-and-response vocals.
Undeniably handsome frontman Sam, all charming country swagger and irresistibly husky croon, has an enigmatic yet down-to-earth on-stage presence. The modest and genuine attitude towards making good music is refreshing in an sometimes pose-y scene.
These lads from Menangle, NSW were playing on a crowded line-up at World Bar in the Cross this time last year (this reviewer did attend, was well impressed). This weekend they play Melbourne’s legendary and auspicious Forum theatre.
They’ve come a long way, in barely a year. The proof of how they got here is, as they say, in the pudding.
To leave you to ponder some of Sam’s finest and most poignant lyricism, and its wider meaning with regard to THE RUBENS dizzying trajectory, here is a line out of ‘Never Be The Same’:
“I finally was awake/ Like water to my face/ I finally found my place/ I’d never be the same”.