Roberts & Lord
Remember MySpace? Rafter Roberts and Simon Lord sure do—they owe their new band to it. Well, sort of; this is a band that would’ve happened regardless, a collaboration constellationally fated, a thing bound to be born, and born to be fun. History: Earlier this year, Lord (ex Simian) was combing the interwebs looking for collaboration ideas. A click lead to a click-click which lead to a click onto a blog-hosted video for Roberts’ Animal Feelings track “No F—ing Around.” Then click, click, et cetera click, and a MySpace message was sent from Lord in London to Roberts in California. This “hella MySpace hookup,” as says Roberts, has now blossomed into a brand-new Asthmatic Kitty full-length album titled, eponymously, Eponymous.
To best understand Roberts and Lord’s debut, it’s necessary to look at the nature of the collaboration. History part 2: The backing music was recorded on a 4-track tape machine at Roberts’ San Diego studio. Up next, Roberts sent the tracks to Lord in the UK, who recorded vocals (and arranged and added a lil’ something-something) and mailed ’em on back. This happened fast. Irons struck hot. Heat of the moment and all. The duality here, Roberts’ rough and grimy (yet complexly arranged) analog backing tracks paired with Lord’s clean, digitally-recorded vocals, gives these songs a tricky kind of depth that is immediately engaging.
This effortless juxtaposition reigns throughout these 12 tracks. Eponymous is a thing born of spontaneity and happy accidents, the creative flush taken to its natural summit, the wild cross-pollination vibes all-consuming. The album begins with “Mosquito,” a perfect example and touchstone of Roberts’ loud, blown-out looseness paired with structure well-thought-out (but never lingered upon). Simon’s lyrics tell the story of a man in love with a mosquito, his vocals backed by a deep crunchy oil-drum thunk of beats (a theme throughout the album and part of its distinct personality). The lyrics on “Mosquito” set the tone for what’s to come—and the tone is FUN. Influenced by nonsense verse poets like Ivor Cutler and Edward Lear, Lord gives us a simple, light-hearted (yet well-written) return to innocence, a goodly love for good love (and for all that creeps and flies), the capital F feel-goodness compressed into a chorus, the sweaty exuberance of a solid dance party with all your best friends around you.
The highlights on this 12 tracker come fast and spiraling like neon Nerf footballs. “Windmill” is an intelligent/fun/robust/WTF take on garage rock; Lord’s lyrics urging you to get out there and move, to put down the phone and let off some steam. The great “Oblique” co-ops the “maybe I didn’t love you” refrain of Brenda Lee classic AM radio/country crossover hit “Always On My Mind” (though the Willie Nelson version) and bends it into something altogether new, a R&B pop hit for alternative universes of classic AMness. (Think D’Angelo backed by The Kinks.) “Purple Doves & Red Phones” gives us Graceland-ic afro-pop and takes it on new roads untrod by the current crop of tropicalia beach punx. “Rise & Fall” is some kind of spirited, noise-influenced, electro John Lennon/prime-era Prince hybrid—barbed vocals and jock jam chords leading to gorgeous waves of Pink Floydian harmony psyche gone Clash reggae peppered by old school turntablism. Without appearing at all academic, Eponymous charts the course of recent pop music history and stews it up together—reggaeton, funky garage punk, soul, hip-hop, R&B, ad infinitum. (Just the same, the aesthetic here is so realized you never feel as though you’re being eclectic’d to death. This ride, as breathless as it is, is a surefooted progression—a seamless journey into well-balanced realms.)
Eponymous is the result of two producers at the top of their game, but it sounds nothing like what you’d expect from a couple tech-heads. This is no over-considered, over-produced prog opera (despite the prog-rock sounding band name). Misters Roberts and Lord have made a warm, loud, healthy album of dance music that feels alive—and alive it’ll leap right out of your stereo and burrow like a baby fox into your big, happy beating heart. So, here’s the party, have fun, make sure your laces are tied in good square knots, and don’t forget to drink water.