Here's The Rub: Sunset Rubdown Slays Dragons, Plays Rickshaw Stop


Montreal’s Wolf Parade obviously became far too small to satisfy its members’ creative cravings. Witness vocalist-guitarist Dan Boeckner raging onstage alongside wife Alexei Perry at Handsome Furs’ recent Great American Music Hall show. Likewise vocalist-keyboardist Spencer Krug has been slowly, steadily gathering steam as the leader of Sunset Rubdown.

Krug’s third Sunset Rubdown long-player, Dragonslayer (Jagjaguwar), which comes out tomorrow, sees the Montreal maven moving way beyond the side project’s lo-fi beginnings and into the full-blown indie-rock orchestral mode of Arcade Fire or Clues, embracing off-kilter textures, angular rhythms and sudden tempo shifts on tracks like “Idiot Heart” and “You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II).” The only monster worth slaying is apparently lingering within. With Dragonslayer, Krug appears to be tossing aside cares and worries about maintaining appearances and a certain cool, bolstered by a fourpiece army that attacked the songs live in the studio with little of the trickery that marked the band’s last disc, Random Spirit Lover. Instead -- sporting a title that World of Warcraft geeks might glom to, choruses built on grandiose hails such as “You’re not a widow yet!” (”Dragon’s Lair”) and intoxicatingly romantic pop hooks like those on “Silver Moons” -- the album reaches for a kind of larger-than-life glory.

Dragonslayer won’t appease all comers: Krug will probably continue to field accusations of artificiality and preciousness, thanks to his heady, overwrought, and stylized vibrato, which blends the arch dramatics of David Bowie, the old-fashioned swell of Win Butler, and the sea-shanty blows of Colin Meloy. Of course, if only one singular, welcome aspect emerges from the 21st century’s latest wave of music-makers, it will be the proliferation of unconventional, oddball and, at times, outright unlovely vocals -- the legacy of an explosion in DIY music-making. Krug’s voice is still an acquired taste, perhaps, but with Dragonslayer, he finds an increasingly compelling -- and complex -- setting, as well as like-minded cohorts that might some day slay a Wolf Parade and put it to rest.

Sunset Rubdown performs Wednesday, June 24, 7:30 p.m., at Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F. Witches and Elfin Saddle open. $14. (415) 861-2011.

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