I think the problem is the length.
That’s what she said.
No I’m serious.
So is she.
Moving on, I’m talking about the new Rustic Overtones album, Let’s Start a Cult, and how my problem with it, the main hang up I have about it, is the length. It’s too short. That’s the stumbling block. The last song seems to start right after the third song is over. I know there is a slow song in there somewhere, but ultimately we have the first two- “Let’s Start a Cult” and “Let’s Start a Cult Part 2,” which sound like one song, albeit one with a regrettable outro, and a nice enough third song, “Solid.” Then, just like that, the horns creep in for the beginning of “Going Out With a Bang/Grand Finale” and a few short minutes later, the album is over.
That’s what she said.
Shut up, I’m still serious.
Let’s Start a Cult is a shade less than thirty minutes long. It’s only eight songs, none that reach the five minute mark and only three that hit four minutes. In contrast, the last album, New Way Out, had only five songs out of thirteen that were under four minutes. Now a song doesn’t need to be long to be good. That’s not the point. The point is that part of the draw of Rustic albums was the depth and scope of them. There was a shitload of shit going on. With Let’s Start a Cult, there are really just a handful of things happening. It’s not disappointing and it’s not like the music is bad- it’s just…different.
My relationship with Rustic started in high school and since then, we’ve had the kind of relationship most people who are in their early thirties have with friends in high school- on again, off again. Life gets complex around your mid-twenties and the older friends you have seem to drift in and out of your life. With each reappearance they joyfully (usually) remind you why you were friends in the first place. I haven’t been as excited for a new album like I was with Let’s Start a Cult since New Way Out. Interestingly enough though, after listening to both the first time through, I was left confused. My old friend had changed. They had grown a beard, maybe started to hang out with different people. With New Way Out it took some time to get through the new facial hair, new crowds and new habits before I was able to see my friend again. For the most part everything is still awesome, just not as awesome as it was. But that’s life- you know, we grow, we change, we adapt. Inherently we’ll always be the same person- just tweaked a little bit here and there.
Yet this Let’s Start a Cult person- well they’ve changed even more and frankly, I’m just not sure how to react. It’s as if that same friend suddenly started going by their middle name or became a Yankees’ fan. I know we’re friends because we have been for so long. Now though, I’m starting to wonder why we were friends and if we still are.
Let’s Start a Cult had a disadvantage from the jump- Tony McNaboe was gone. That dude is one of my favorite drummers out there and the only drummer who makes me want to instantly play drums after listening to him. He’s no longer in Rustic. His replacement is fine- totally capable. While I question why he always wears sunglasses, I can’t knock his drumming. He’s Charlie Watts steady. Great. But the Tony Mac pop is gone and I really think with it, that signature sound of Rustic is gone too. There are moments of familiarity within Let’s Start a Cult, but they’re fleeting. Maybe I should be more concerned with my inability to move on because there’s a good sized part of me that just wants to hear “Combustible” over and over again.
I’ve thought about this before- how deep down, we should want our favorite artists, whether it’s musicians, filmmakers or writers, to change over time. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again you become Jack Johnson and I haven’t listened to anything he’s released after 2007 for a reason- I don’t see the point. But at the same time, we don’t want our favorite artists to change too much because then we might not be a fan anymore. Case in point, The Office- where Michael Scott left and over the past couple seasons, so has the dry absurdity that made the show so much fun. Now? Now it’s like almost any other bad comedy on television. It’s sad. It should be put down like a sick dog or the 2011 Red Sox. But there’s the fine line that comes with liking an artist with staying power- the line of evolving.
You could see and more accurately, you could hear Rustic’s evolution with New Way Out. String arrangements had replaced the horn arrangements and on stage, they had more keyboards up there than an IT department. There was a definitive maturity to New Way Out and a transparent attempt to move beyond a jam like “Combustible.” A jam like that was Paranoid Social Club territory now. “Nuts and Bolts?” That song is almost eight minutes long, but is absolutely nothing like “Dig,” the last long song the band released, way back in the day on Long Division. “Nuts and Bolts” had parts and sections. It was essentially eight to ten songs in one. The true testament to the skill of Rustic was that each of those teased songs were great and were potentially better than what most people were releasing. If there is any connection to be made to Rustic’s past with Let’s Start a Cult, it’s a connection to “Nuts and Bolts.” Let’s Start a Cult really doesn’t sound like an album, but a multi-part song with each song acting more as a movement than a traditional song.
Let’s Start a Cult is good from a music perspective. That’s not the issue here. Let’s Start a Cult is disappointing from a content perspective. The songs are all good, but not memorable- the ability to create a lasting impression is missing. It’s an album that sounds like an idea not quite flushed out- so close, but not quite.
If it’s the last one Rustic Overtones ever come out with, it’ll only make it more disappointing.
I just wish it was longer.
That’s what she said.
And she’d be right.