Seems like I’ve spent most of my adult life spreading their gospel, trying to explain why the group is so great. Any failure in that regard is largely my own fault. But I will place some of the blame on the band.
See, Reubens Accomplice are a confounding bunch. As people and musicians, you never know quite what to expect. You’re just as likely to get a warm hug as a sharp tongue lashing. But that’s always been the dynamic guiding the band’s two singer-songwriters, Chris Corak and Jeff Bufano.
For nearly 20 years, these childhood friends have worked a musical double act. On the surface, they seem to be a study in contrasts: Corak as pop confectioner and Bufano as hard-bitten storyteller. But that’s a clever deception — they write and sing in a uniquely intertwined style, shifting roles, and perspectives seamlessly. Hell, I’m still trying to figure out which one is yin and which is yang.
As you will no doubt glean from the geography of the songs, Reuben’s Accomplice are dustbillies, creatures of a desert wasteland to which escape is the only reasonable response. Yet the band has stuck it out under the proverbial sun, turning the peculiar ennui of their environment into a searching art of the highest order.
The music? Well, you could say it’s an aural homebrew that was probably never meant for mass consumption. Yes, Reubens write love songs; but love songs as moral explorations. They write pop songs; pop songs that quiver with quiet desolation. I’d hesitate to call what they do rock ‘n’ roll; they’ve always had more brains than brawn. Often, the music sidewinds into country, or explodes into grand orchestral expressions.
Take, for example, album opener “Field Science” a lilting fingerpicked folk song that turns into a widescreen epic. Or “This Desert” an irresistible mingling of barbed wit and buzzing pop. Somehow, Reubens mingles tragic content and joyful noise to magical effect, whether on the dusky evocation of “Women” or the desperate “I Love You but I’m Tired” — a song so melodic even its choruses have choruses.
The band’s sound isn’t built solely on Corak and Bufano’s brotherhood, but on a rare alchemy that extends to the group’s other members. To simply call John O’Reilly a drummer would be a disservice; his percussion is a form of fluid composition, redrawing the parameters of the songs as he plays. And while Ryan Kennedy fits the description of a multi-instrumentalist, he’s more a sonic artisan, helping paint every one of these little masterpieces.
Reubens’ records have always been stocked with melodic gems, now they’re filled complex anthems layered with meaning and potent. Lyrics go off like tiny explosions in your brain:
“How do I pass the time, without letting time pass me by” – Sons of Men,
“I’m trying you, testing you, tasting you for doubt, and chewing you and spitting you back out” – I’m Leaving
This is the sound of teenage melancholy grown up. Fresh-faced hope roughened into blasted beauty.
The songs here are pretty and funny, sad and scathing, caustic and carefree. Canny juxtapositions all down the line. Like I say, hu gs and tongue lashings. That’s Sons of Men.
Two decades on, Reubens Accomplice sound remarkably vital, like a band that’s just made its first record. And, also, a band that’s made its best record. And maybe its last record.
Whether it’s today, tomorrow, or some point off in the distance, here’s hoping you finally do get to hear them.
– Bob Mehr, July 2012
“Sons Of Men”…
…has been produced by 3-time Grammy Award Winner, Chris Testa
…is featuring a 14 piece orchestra (arranged by John O’Reilly Jr.)
…has Guest Appearances from:
– Davey Von Bohlen (of Maritime)
– Jon Rauhouse (Neko Case and has played w/ Giant Sand, Calexico…)
The band’s previous album, “The Bull, the Baloon and the Family” has been produced by Jim Adkins
Reubens Accomplice toured “The Bull” in Germany opening for Olli Schultz, the United States with Jimmy Eat World, the Format, the Weakerthans, Maritime, Ryan Adams, Karate, Pedro The Lion, The Promise Ring
John O’Reilly Jr.
Arctic Rodeo release:
REUBENS ACCOMPLICE – album “Sons Of Men” – LP+Download (arr049)