The Ruby Suns - Fight Softly - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Ruby Suns - Fight Softly

by Pete Sykes Rating:6.5 Release Date:2010-03-01

New Zealand's Ruby Suns' last album, Sea Lion (2008), was a pleasant, summery slice of neo-psychadelica; Fight Softly continues in the same vein, but with added synths and some bouncy, crunchy beats. It's all very Animal Collective, but it lacks the urgency and intricacy of Merriweather Post Pavilion; rather it's a collection of nice but hardly groundbreaking pieces that never quite hit the mark. If the band are targeting those same sunny indie-electro-pop lovers who enjoyed Passion Pit and Neon Indian's records last summer, they might be onto something; but there's not quite enough enthusiasm here - vocalist Ryan McPhun's singing is mostly a languid drawl - and, crucially, there aren't enough big tunes of the 'Sleepyhead' or 'Deadbeat Summer' order for Fight Softly to make a big splash.

That said, the album does have some excellent moments. Single 'Cranberry' drifts agreeably from a Panda Bear-ish opening to a chirpy Vampire Weekend style chorus. 'Mingus and Pike' - about a talking dog, according to the press release - is delightfully lush (though not a patch on Mark Kozalek's 'Wop-a-Din-Din' or Nina Nastasia's 'A Dog's Life', my favourite canine songs). Standout 'How Kids Fail', meanwhile, features a brilliant synth riff and a pounding beat that is used with a restraint that makes it all the more pleasurable. The fractured synths that start off 'Cinco' are arresting; the quirky 7/8 beat on 'Haunted House' is interesting and well-executed. When the music isn't interesting, it's warm and untaxing and musically sophisticated.

In other words, it's all most pleasant, and just a little bit dull. As background music for a druggy summer barbecue, it's undeniably perfect; there's just not a great deal here that will linger in your mind the next morning. The lyrics are often barely audible, and don't seem to be about very much; the music is always melodic, but seldom surprising. It all drifts by warmly and dreamily, and is very well put together, but it never grabs you. If you need some nice music to get stoned to on a balmy evening this summer, Fight Softly will fit the bill; if you want anything more - such as memorable songs, provocative, direct lyrics, or musical inventiveness - it is sadly inadequate.

Pete Sykes

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