Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hey Buddy, Dummy - The Robots

Hey Buddy, Dummy

The Robots
Night Danger Records.

SCQ Rating: 85%

A few Fridays ago, I was watching the last hour of work crawl by and imagining all the remedies I’d need to feel like myself again. There was a bottle of wine sitting idly on a vendor’s shelf awaiting my fist, some fresh air loitering the outside backstreets to flush my pores of stale office air and a record by The Robots sitting in SCQ’s digital mailbox. Beyond their menacing promotional track ‘I Didn’t Know What I Was Saying’, I knew nothing of this P.E.I.-based outfit or their full-length debut but one thing was clear: Friday night was going to be a five-alarm breakout and Hey Buddy, Dummy would cater the decompression with wall-shaking authority. My lofty hopes for this record I’d never heard were met, then overpowered, as Hey Buddy, Dummy is more than just a throwdown rock album; it’s a commanding song-cycle of muscular indie-rock, original and uncompromising.

If my expectations, rooted in those testosterone-sparked drums and Jonny Greenwood-inspired guitar squalls swamping ‘I Didn’t Know What I Was Saying’, led me down a path to blistered six-strings, opener ‘Are You Mine’ had me double-taking with a moody arrangement that thunders forward into piano-rich melancholy and Peter Rankin’s layered coos. The bar is set (and set high, in case you weren’t paying attention), leaving the rest of Hey Buddy, Dummy the tall order of living up to such a stellar start. The Robots deliver, reigniting their doomladen electrics with the vampiric intensity of ‘ShudderBoxin’ and working eerie guitar lines between the rock dynamics of ‘Drunk Uncles’ and ‘Prester John’. Never leaving itself open to easy criticism, Hey Buddy, Dummy camouflages its predominantly mid-tempo pacing with structure-shifts that swing a song’s narrative to drastic poles; take, for example, how ‘The Cape’ moves from early Tortoise mood-setting to late Coldplay climaxing. Um, that’s a heavy change-up, and for The Robots to manage such headstrong maneuvers without showing their stitches is commendable, indeed.

Even if you’ve only heard it once and can’t recall a single melody, Hey Buddy, Dummy has a memorable presence, as if its ten songs were modeled from guitars and vocals no differently than how a house is distinguished by brick and stone. Without reaching for postures or pretensions, The Robots carry a dramatic strain reminiscent of The Dears and early Radiohead, the kind you feel from start to finish but never hear coming. It's the absolute best way to blindside your Friday night.

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