Album Review: Moonface – Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums

[Jagjaguwar; 2010]

Help! Someone has coerced Spencer Krug, lead singer of Sunset Rubdown, into crooning for twenty minutes against a rash of marimba and repetitive drum. The dastardly devil’s name is Moonface, and he must not be allowed to tarnish such a unique legacy.

If anyone were prone to creative exhaustion, it would have to be Spencer Krug. This past year saw the release of two other records distinct from the ‘Moonface’ canon, Enemy Mine from Swan Lake and Dragonslayer from Sunset Rubdown. Disappointment with the former was quickly covered by exuberant appraisals of the latter, a work that kept the singer’s sense of theatricality but benefited from a marked absence of slick production techniques. This brazen move became a necessity to the beleaguered songwriter who recently grew critical of his previous output and looked to shed his own daunting persona. Krug’s genius, spread to six different acts, has been diluted through an overextension of the pathos. His latest work suffers from a similar fatigue, resulting in an uneven piece that relies heavily upon the whimsy of its creator’s fantastical lyricism.

The twenty-minute opus starts out innocently enough with a marimba signaling the listener’s journey down the rabbit hole into a soundscape filled with cryptic imagery. The marimba fails to excite over the elongated performance, betraying its beautiful sound by becoming an endless annoyance. Drums triumphantly enter to break up the monotony, but they too begin to grate on the listener, developing into interludes reminiscent of Dirk Diggler. Sonic effects pierce the split vocals at the three-minute mark, paving the way for a bit of tinny guitar that takes hold and fires up a delightful solo. Multi-tracked vocals provide a steady stream of distortion around the seven-minute mark, while the marimba is constantly pounded, sounding not unlike ping-pong balls bouncing around a glass house. This unsavory noise continues throughout the ballad with little variation. Some fiery percussion molds into a pleasant melody around the eight-minute mark, then evaporates.

It becomes clear relatively early on that the piece’s strongest moments appear when the two main instruments are relegated to the back of the mix, while Krug’s feverish yelps are brought to center stage. “I venture into a dreamland where the waves have come alive and I watch them chase the people down the beach. But they are bound to the water. Like creatures on a leash.” This fairy tale rendition of an everyday ocean shore is a fleeting symbol of what critics have come to admire about Krug, but even some slick guitar and spooky voice modulation much later on can’t hide a string of egregious wordplay in what is perhaps the worst chorus he has ever written: “I was lying around with chameleons. I was hanging around with bitches. I heard that there’s a war on and I’m sure that they’re not with us.” As Krug continues, “No no no no no…” you will agree and anxiously await the wrap-up. A bout of feedback rounds out the insufferable marathon, cleansing the mind of a twenty-minute period spent almost entirely in tedium.

With a handful of great albums under his belt in the aughts, Krug deserves a bit leeway to venture out on his own. Such a long dirge filled with unimaginative instrumentals and shapeless structure, not to mention some wretched phrasing, could possibly be misconstrued as pretension, but sounds more like an artist enjoying himself at long last. Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums is admittedly an indulgent piece, merely a mode of experimentation for a weary musician in need of a quiet creative outlet.