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Thursday, March 27, 2014

John Reuben -- Sex, Drugs and Self-Control

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This is a review for an album called Sex, Drugs and Self-Control that contains a song titled "Paranoid Schizophrenic Apocalyptic Whisper Kitten," so it might be a little scattered. Sex, Drugs and Self-Control is John Reuben's final album (for now). This album is the most unique of Rebuen's oeuvre. While on past albums he seemed upbeat and full of swagger(even when he was thinking), here he comes off as broken, uncertain, detached, and just a little bit numb. Reuben's rapping is usually smooth, with an excellent lyrical flow, but here he Reuben-sings more than raps, and many of his lines are terse and blurry. He is wearing glasses made of tinfoil on the album cover, so perhaps they symbolize he is going through a time of not seeing things clearly? The album does contain the line, "Clarity is terrifying."
Sex, Drugs and Self-Control is most definitely a night album, and I don't mean 10 pm. I mean 3 or 4 am. The vibe is weird, yet does retain the trademark Reuben introspection, though his mind seems cluttered and divided. Reuben's music even sounds a bit smaller and dialed back here, though it still gets the job done. There are no huge beats or breakout moments. The standouts are instead completely unexpected, like the strangely robotic female vocals that pop-up throughout (I love the album layout with all of the dolled up girls and Reuben lolling around vapidly), Reuben pulling out a vocoder on "So Sexy For All the Right Reasons," or the layers upon layers of vocal harmonies at the end of "Confident." It's like a really weird party you are glad you attended, but are confused about the details of the next day.
The strangest element of Sex, Drugs and Self-Control, and really the element that makes the album work so well, is that despite the detached feeling, Reuben seems to be bearing more of his soul than ever. He sounds genuinely broken at points and isn't ashamed to reveal his brokenness. It's like he's hugging you, yet refusing to make eye contact. The final track title, "Joyful Noise," seems to promise a happy resolution, yet its chorus is
Make a joyful noise/clapping broken hands/feeling overwhelmed/standing outside myself.
Sex, Drugs and Self-Control contains a strange combination of intimate, distant, fun, divided, and difficult. This is a rare album, even if it isn't Reuben's best work.
Here is a video (starring Reuben and the models from the album art) that sums up the entire album in a nutshell.

2009 Gotee
1 Jamboree 4:07
2 Radio Makes You Lonely 3:14
3 Burn It Down 3:23
4 In The Air 3:40
5 Paranoid Schizophrenic Apocalyptic Whisper Kitten 4:05
6 Town Folk 3:11
7 Confident 4:26
8 Everett 4:41
9 No Be Nah 3:52
10 So Sexy For All The Right Reasons 3:21
11 Wooden Whistle Man 4:02
12 Joyful Noise 3:34

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