One would think that I'd be a big fan of Sunset Rubdown based on my love of the first Wolf Parade album and the lack of material that they've put out since then, but sadly most of the group side projects have left me feeling a bit less than satisfied. The first album from the group Shut Up I Am Dreaming seemed to take the most shrill and theatrical parts of the groups repertoire and then amplify them to near unbearable levels, while the Beast Moans foray (as Swan Lake) had its moments but again largely left me cold.
On the bright side, Random Spirit Lover is a much stronger album to my ears. The quartet still isn't writing easily-digestible pop songs (with many of them clocking in at between five and six minutes), but as a whole this newest effort is a more rich and varied tapestry than their previous release. "The Mending Of The Gown" opens things up with one of the best songs on the release as it mixes greasy guitar melodies with tinny synths and thin drumming as Spencer Krug gets downright maniacal at times, letting loose with his odd but evocative vocals before the track changes about halfway through and finds him backed up by Camilla Ingr before turning into a total rock dance piece to close things out.
"Magic Vs Midas" doesn't get any more easy, and is downright sparse to open, with only a chord organ, guitars, and the vocals of Krug before the group layers in a slew of sounds and again tumble into a more layered ending. Really, that's about par for the course, as song after song on the release weaves through unpredictable sections, often sounding like they're barely hanging together by a thread. It's ramshackle in lots of places, and sonically thin and tinny in others, but just about the time you think they're trying to put you on, they'll explode into a gorgeous moment like they do at teh end of "Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days."
Unfortunately, this wild abandon sometimes gets the best of the group and they often veer far wide of the course into tracks that honestly make the album overly long and severely diluted. Tracks like the noisy, aimless "Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns" and the completely overlong "Stallion" sag out the middle of the album something fierce, and with twelve songs running just about an hour in length, Random Spirit Lover really starts to wear out its welcome during the latter third to quarter. Fans of their past work will definitely find lots to love here, and they will likely gain a few converts, but I still wish they'd focus a bit more.