Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Drug Rug - Paint the Fence Invisible (* * * 1/2)

The path of indie retro-rock has been well traveled recently by the likes of Cold War Kids, Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit and plenty of others, but though the genre can occasionally feel tired, there's enough fresh material being produced that I, for one, still don't mind hearing more. Tommy Allen and Sarah Cronin, recording and performing as Drug Rug, are the latest to catch my attention with their recently-released sophomore effort, Paint the Fence Invisible. The album is a brief and mostly effective blast of psych-infused pop music hearkening primarily back to the late 60s, though the songs feel modern enough to make the duo seem like more than just a pair of rip-offs. Looking back at their self-titled debut, it's obvious that the basic formula hasn't changed much for the band's latest outing, but the new record is more consistent, tuneful, and features slightly smoother production, all of which add to the quality of experience.

Near the beginning of the album, Drug Rug reveal their best work; both the driving "Haunting You" and the groovy, shimmering "Never Tell," showcase the group's appeal, with constant boy/girl harmonies and appropriately simple instrumentals including guitar, drums, and keys. The formula isn't unique but the band successfully employ it to create songs that are expressive, fun, and just hard to resist. Though the music often follows the upbeat standard set early in the proceedings, the band take the occasional stylistic detour that livens things up, though sometimes at the expense of the record's consistency. The rough squall of "Hannah Please" and the gently groovy "Sooner the Better" are among those tunes that add some welcome variation to the album, while the lengthier, denser psych-pop tune "Noah Rules" and the uneven rocker "Passes On" feel more like missteps, but the overall approach works better than it did on the group's less focused debut.

Mostly, Paint the Fence Invisible is an enjoyable summertime album that aims to please and hits the target more often than not. Drug Rug are talented musicians that know their way around a hook which keep the record interesting, and they're smart enough to know not to overstay their welcome, holding the record to a brief 31 minutes. In the future, the duo will certainly have to diversify their sound to stay relevant and fresh, but for now their light, breezy version of retro-rock is a more than welcome addition to the genre.