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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dambuilders - Ruby Red

Name: Dambuilders
Album: Ruby Red
Year: 1995
Style: Alternative
Similar Bands: Fig Dish, Fretblanket, Smashing Pumpkins, Dramarama
"One Word" Review: My High School Music Style
Based Out Of: Boston/Hawaii
Label: Eastwest Records
Ruby Red - Cover
Ruby Red - My Cover

Ruby Red (1995)
  1. Smooth Control 2:32 (sample)
  2. Special Ed 4:06 (sample)
  3. Teenage Loser Anthem 3:14 (sample) (video)
  4. Drive-By Kiss 4:23 (sample)
  5. Lazy Eye 4:23 (sample)
  6. Bending Machine 3:52 (sample)/
  7. Velocidad 3:23 (sample)
  8. Rocket to the Moon 3:05 (sample)
  9. Cosmonaut 3:29 (sample)
  10. St. Tamarindo 4:46 (sample)
  11. Down 5:13 (sample)
  12. I Forget Myself 6:26 (sample)
Album Rating (1-10):

Memberd & Other Bands:
Dave Derby - Bass & Lead Vox (The Collective , Exactones, Dave Derby and the Norfolk Downs )
Eric Masunaga - Guitar (Exactones)

Unknown-ness: This is another album I bought back in 1995-1996, in a discounted/used tape bin at a local record store in Quakertown, which only experienced a short life, called The Raven’s Nest. My best memory of the place is that I got Faith No More’s “King For A Day…” album the first day it came out from there after school, before tennis practice. Anyway, about Dambuilders, I do not recall if I knew any of the songs when I bought the tape…none of the songs look familiar today. Perhaps I heard about them somewhere (CMJ Music Magazine, Rock Video Monthly, 120 Minutes, Post Modern PST) and then bought the tape as it was very cheap, and the car I used (and still currently use) has a tape deck. I cannot say much for the artwork, as it is a promotional copy. But I did look up the cover on-line, and posted a picture of it. Bring on the fuzz-infused alternative music! (I think…)

Album Review: Ruby Red starts off with “Smooth Control.” With an electric slide guitar, and Dismemberment Plan drum beat, the song takes off quickly. The vocals range from quiet whispering in the verse to controlled shouting in the chorus. There is a certain amount of fuzz and distortion, but not so much that the music is sacrificed. It is a great first song to an album. “Special Ed” follows with a basic drum beat, low fuzzy bass, and Dramarama style vocals. It is hard to define the music as anything but Alternative. The guitars chords introduce the melody of each line of vocals that follow during the chorus. “Teenage Loser Anthem” says it all about 90’s slacker rock in title and music. The vocals sound like Fig Dish, and the music is similar to Smashing Pumpkins. It is a solid driving song, with catchy guitar licks that back up the chorus and we finally hear the violin here. “Drive By Kiss” is a slower, shoe-gazing song, and the violin sooths on this track. The guitar croons more than the vocals do. During the long ending, there are quiet, spoken vocals over the music. “Lazy Eye” is a droning, stomp, with slide guitar, and a thick sludgey sound. The chorus is Nirvana shouting vocals over the only portion of the song that comes together and picks up in speed and makes the most musical sense. “Bending Machine” picks right up seamlessly with a fade-in after Lazy Eye’s fade-out. It is more quiet, calculated singing, over jangley guitars, but the over all tone is dark. The guitars quickly change to a more rocking and electrified sound. The violin and female back-up vocals in the chorus are featured nicely here. His vocals are back to that of Dramarama’s style.

“Velocidad” begins side 2, with drums, and a quick ticking time bomb pace. The guitars seem to represent that of pop-punk rhythm guitars. But the tone of the song in the verse is mysterious like a Mission Impossible scenario theme song. The rest is just fast pop. Slow methodical drumming begins the deep, chanting “Rocket to the Moon.” The song pulses along on a chorus of “ooo-oooos.” Lots of emotion is fed into the short burst of chorus: “rocket to the moon, set fire.” As if to follow up the space theme, “Cosmonaut” begins with Russian space dialogue, bag pipe sounding violin, and a very catchy, driving, almost metal musical base. There are two main sections to the song, the first one mentioned, and the second section. It slows and strips the music down, almost leaving you feel like you are drifting weightlessly aboard a ship. “St. Tamarindo” continues the echo chamber, drifting feeling from the previous song in tempo and construction. It is a slow, methodical song that never really gets to a point. The song fades out with a twinkling guitar and a shrieking violin, and some angelic oo-we-oo’s. “Down” trembles into existence, with shaky drums, violin and bass and swooping vocals. It picks up for just a second with focused guitar chords, but falls back into the quiet, stuttering musical style. His vocals sound somewhat like Gruff Rhys of SFA mixed with the Walkmen on this track. The music gains confidence for a little bit and then reverts back to the same style when the vocals are added. This is a well crafted song, gliding easily from style to style and all cemented with a calm, relaxing musical tempo. The violin is added as a melody guide to finish out the song. Finally, “I Forget Myself” comes on as a polite, slow shoe-gazing number. The violin is a buzzing bee sound. The drums and tempo pick up for a short few measures, giving a glimpse at what this could sound like as a pop song. This structure repeats a few times, giving way to more rocking out sections as the song progresses. There is a lot of instrumental time on the end of the song, and it becomes very precise in its musical arrangement.

Over all, this is a good, solid album. The songs are not annoyingly produced, and there is lots of room for the actual music, rather than coating it in a distortion-glaze. The influences of the music at the time are clearly heard throughout the album, but they really make it their own for the most part. i think if I would have listened to this during my High School years, this could have been a real favorite. Now, it is just pretty good.

Stand Out Track:


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