Space Raft - Rubicon - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Space Raft - Rubicon

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:9 Release Date:2016-05-03

You have to love the tags that Space Raft has on their Bandcamp web page. Words like 'science fiction', 'pop', 'rock 'n' roll', and 'stoner' make me think that someone stole an old notebook from my nightstand back in 1978 and put it on ice for several decades before pulling it out and starting the band I always wanted to be in.

Sporting the shaggy, if fully authentic, look of average dudes who find time after work to grill brats in the backyard, drink a handful of cheap beers to wash down the bong hits, and then head to the garage or basement to make kick ass classic rock-era music once or twice a month, Space Raft are the real deal. Again, the band I always yearned to be in.

On the third track of their sophomore effort “Rubicon,” this Milwaukee quartet wind down a short piece of jangly, organ-riff driven retro rock. The sound fades, there is a pause, and then up comes a Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac-esque riff setting off a three minute instrumental jam that fucking kills. Building slowly but relentlessly, drums kick in following the hook, then organ background flavor coupled with layers of guitar and bass, and soon it’s an unstoppable force. Just as quickly as it begins, the song simply ends, as if they realize the human body can only tolerate so much concentrated awesome. I have no idea why the band chose to lay it down the way they did. It’s not a “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” extended jam but a totally different song, essentially giving the listener a two-fer under one title, “Disconnection Notice.” Regardless of why, it’s the pinnacle of an eight track disc full of similarly genuine Grade A rock.

Opening track “Borrowed Time” plays the role of leadoff hitter well, starting things with an accurate glimpse of all that makes this group so appealing (solid hard rock roots coupled with the more recent pinch of pop appeal). “Hang On Hang On,” with the anthem chant and fade out solo, reveals the influence of their Midwestern hard rock predecessors, themselves descendants of the mid-60s Brit blues/rock movement. “Red Arrow,” a pointed social commentary number played for an enthusiastic crowd at a recent Bernie Sanders rally in their home state, has a strained chorus that sounds like Paul Fucking Stanley belting out Kiss. The jean jacketed stoner usually locked away in my fifty-something daily persona smiles in joyful reminisce every time I hear it.

The band also includes some moments of trippy diversion that break up the jams. “Sunday Take Me Away” has the mid-70s junkie feel of Goat’s Head Soup, while “Vacation” meanders along on the same stoned groove. Closer “Mountain” is a beautiful coda, mixing the buzz with the bang, while leaving me glad I have iTunes set to “repeat.” 

The members of Space Raft are not newbies, but rather vets of their local scene, and their honed chops and songwriting skills are in abundant evidence. Singer/guitarist Jordan Davis riffs hard and sings like a very young Ozzy, his voice mixed deep into the layers of fuzzy guitars and Deep Purple organ overloads, which is as it should be in a group playing rock like this. It’s just all part of a really tight and professional act that fully comprehend that their music is a melting pot of bitchin' ingredients. At eight songs, I think it’s just the right length. The band doesn’t stretch their focus, choosing instead to polish these eight balls to perfection. This is a very good second effort from a band that seems to be building up a head of steam and prepping for a helluva lot more than their fifteen minutes. 

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