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If the pop-culture school of science has taught us anything about schizophrenia, it is to fear those suffering from it. From Psycho to Sybil, cinema shows an individual with a divided subconscious is nothing if not bound and determined to shake you loose of this mortal coil—and likely make you suffer whilst doing so.

 

For fans of: Feist, Juliette Lewis, No Doubt, stellastarr*, She & Him, The Police, The Clash, The Cure

 

However, we have infrequently, if at all, dealt with schizophrenia on a musical level. Most bands are rather straightforward in their sound and influences, with few notable touchstones of familiarity determining their reception by audiences and critical media. It is in rare instances a band manages to shake conventionality at their core and still make marketable material. After hearing Rubblebucket, I took it upon myself to walk outside to ensure that swine were not taking flight and Satan seen wearing a parka.

 

I do not, in any way, wish this depiction to sound derogatory. There is a brilliant eclecticism to the Oversaturated EP, Rubblebucket‘s latest release, that defies conventional categorization. The title itself is the album’s most apt descriptor, as it is virtually brimming with an overabundance of styles, tones, and genre mishmashes.

 

There may be an urge to refer to Rubblebucket as a “throwback” band, as Oversaturated is overrun with elements prevalent in synthpop songs of the 80’s. However, the term throwback is dismissive in this instance, because it does not account for the ingenuity of this material. There’s an implied stagnancy in the throwback label, as though the artists has simply transplanted music that was previously popular into a modern setting. The brilliance of Rubblebucket‘s approach is they expertly evoke an 80’s vibe while crafting something ingeniously original and vibrant.

 

“(Focus) Oversaturated,” the album’s first track, sounds like a ballad written by The Clash, performed by Roxette and remixed by RZA (complete with twinkling snyth and a whistled melody in the bridge). With me so far? Me neither.

 

“Pain From Love” starts as a straight ahead ska tune, and suddenly a trip-hop beat breaks out in the verses. The vocal melody conjures the feel of a Cure song without being atonal. Danceable and jubilant, the song is electronica at its finest with a glittery synth refrain and grooves so deep you might as well call them scarred.

 

Yes, I referred to a tune combining elements of ska, trip-hop and electronica. Get the schizo sensation yet? It’s bloody brilliant.

 

Their use of synthesizers and horns are tasteful, varied and perpetually appropriate— which is high praise, as horns are often murderously jarring in a mix. While modern indie-rock groups like Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s effectively utilize horns as well, Rubblebucket‘s inclusions are a unique blend of ska or reggae stabs and soul runs, imbuing the songs with an ultramodern dynamic so incomparable that I’ve yet to hear its equal.

 

For example, the horn work on the track “Oooh Wa,” provides an incredibly infectious counter-melody between the chorus and subsequent verse, a device often used in ska and swing music, but underused in anything but 80’s soul singles (think of Phil Collins when he was considered hip-). The orchestration also includes swells during the pre-choruses that build a brilliant dynamic surge into the choruses, reminiscent of many Motown hits of the 60’s. The execution here is exceedingly skillful, and expertly incorporated into the mix of the song. Seeing as the two founding members of the band, Alex Toth (trumpets) and Kalmia Traver (vocals, saxophone), both play wind instruments, it’s no shock that they play both a substantial and inventive role in their compositions. The song itself features a Deborah Harry-esque vocal performance from Traver, brilliant syncopated passages from their rhythm section in the pre-choruses, and all the New Wave you can handle during it’s 4-and-a-half minute duration.

 

The styles the band incorporates are so disparate that it’s near impossible to conceptualize them blending as well as they do. “Pain From Love Reprise” infuses reggae elements that fold so smoothly into the tone the album that it doesn’t register as a style contrast. “The Flower Man” has a churning funk bassline that would easily serve as the backbone of any modern hip-hop track, augmented by an almost Asian overtone consisting of what sound like xylophone strikes over synthesized string swells.The tune is dynamic and dark in all the right ways, with an infectious soul song’s chorus somehow wedged between the ominous overtones of its verses. The song itself is so perfectly stylized that it sounds plucked straight from The Police‘s ’83 release, Synchronicity (particularly it’s pulsing outro, overlayed with trumpet stabs under some soulful saxophone playing).

 

To belabor my already overworked metaphor, this record is so multifaceted as to honestly evoke the exit lines of the cinema classic, The Breakfast Club: the band’s charming schizophrenia simultaneously channels a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a (smooth) criminal. It is most definitely something to be cheered, not feared.

 

Seamlessly blending a bevy of styles and genres so disparate that wars would be fought over their boundary lines, the Oversaturated EP is incontrovertible proof that you can blaze new trails in the modern music industry without sacrificing listenability and marketability. It’s a unique and infectious listening experience that must be heard to be believed.

 

The stale and stagnant, tried and true TV Dinner artists of the day will need to watch their step… the music world has just been set on it’s ear, and that ear is trained to the sounds of Rubblebucket.

 

 

 CNN covers Rubblebucket:

 

 

Rubblebucket on Jimmy Kimmel Live

 

 

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