reviewed by Michael Thomas
Calling your band “loud, yet soft” is a bold move, but it somehow fits the music of R U S T O W L. Formed initially under sombre circumstances, the duo of Garrett Iverson and Jory Strachan on guitars and drums respectively eventually expanded to include Robert Reimer (bass) and Jensen Fridfinnson (piano fiddle).
The result of this musical fusion is rock and roll tempered by weariness and thoughtfulness. The band name symbolizes decay and wisdom; the music is loud but never feels grandiose or excessive.
There’s a hard edge to Iverson’s voice, and “In a World of Old Lovers” is a good introduction to his vocals and what you can expect from the band. Amid loud guitars, Iverson sings of a world where everyone has a deep history—everyone except you. There’s too much for you to step in on. The song changes with the line “Then you see them there, gasping for air.” Now Fridfinnson joins in on vocals and you get the sense that you’re not the only one alone in the world.
With “Crooked Teeth,” Fridfinnson is front and centre. She sings of “scoundrels” in the street, “selling the day for night.” Is it a song about survival? Perhaps. “Let’s feel all right” is something both Fridfinnson and later Iverson sing more than once. When Iverson joins in, he’s shouting it in response.
“Awkward Age” is where the band’s roots influences are most clear. The song is much mellower, and the pain much more clear. Iverson sings as someone older, who’s experienced much. Love has deserted him and he sings “Youth have no fear.” Sometimes, just the passage of time is enough to make you think love will never find you.
The band returns to louder sounds with “Hibernation” to finish off the EP. It’s about a pile-up of feelings, some forcing their way to the surface. To hibernate might be the easiest way to avoid everything, but that’s just the thing: those buried memories never stay buried.
Mixing rock and country influences in this particular way shows R U S T O W L make a niche for themselves. There’s no clumsy genre-fusion word/portmanteau to accurately describe them.
Top Track: “Crooked Teeth”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)