An album about the end of the world that won’t bum you out.
6.7 / 10.0
Sifting Through The Rubble is the debut album from Bay Area band Romper. Largely the project of singer/songwriter/screenwriter/music journalist Paul Freeman, the album takes a humorous look at the end of the world while playing hopscotch with genres along the way. Picking up pieces of indie rock, metal, jazz, and electro-pop, there’s enough experimentation to suggest just how capable Romper are as a newly formed band. They even snagged guest spots from Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), and Wendy Flower (Wendy & Bonnie) to take part in what the band is referring to as an “a-pop-alyptic” debut.
Okay, so maybe that description is a little cringe worthy, and I must admit some aversion to their name; anytime I hear a movie called a “fun romp”, I know that I will not be purchasing a ticket to see it. However, while some songs miss their marks at Magnetic Fields-style humor, Romper makes up for it with their deft arrangements. Opening song “Road To Ruin” combines a ghostly organ with a jazz-fusion as Freeman offers up commentary as to what’s driving our society to an impending doomsday. His solution to turn things around? There isn’t one; we’re just doomed.
Sifting Through The Rubble isn’t without some political commentary. On “Corporation Nation”, Freeman points out the greed and despicable nature of corporate industry while lamenting America’s deteriorated morals. The song’s understated metal crunch gives the song a ballsy edge, but a suggestion of revolution would have made it a grander statement. After all, we have to stand up against those other pod people. “By the time you awaken / They would have taken / Your soul”, sings Freeman on “Invasion of the Pod People” that pays homage to the Body Snatcher movies with a grinding guitar riff and some sci-fi spook. While this song could be overlooked for its humor, it’s a better political statement than “Corporation Nation” on how we allow ourselves to become easily assimilated to any shitty situation imposed upon us until it’s just deemed normal.
The band keeps their riffs very understated, even though it sounds as if they could blast out the speakers. Their choice of restraint leads to a more mature sound, recalling the likes of classic rock bands like Bad Company and Blue Oyster Cult. Romper is a bit more experimental than those bands, and their songwriting is very witty at times with Paul Freeman even sounding like Stephin Merritt occasionally. Some of the songs’ comedic elements feel forced, possibly from being shoehorned into rhyming. But Sifting Through The Rubble is an entertaining look at the end of the world whereas other bands would just use doom and gloom to depress its listeners.
Purchase: Romper – Sifting Through the Rubble