Review: The Rope produce a dark but powerful new 12″ (Release show Saturday!)
The medium behind Waters Rising is perfect. It will come as a 10”, 45 rpm vinyl, and has three songs on each side. It’s compact like the gothic sounds produced over at Flowers Studio in Minneapolis. There’s one type of song here, so there’s no reason to release the album as your average 40-minute journey. Music culture may be once again getting away from an emphasis on record-length ideas. Many are turning once again to playlist culture, as evidenced by any given side-tab on Spotify. Waters Rising is an effective statement in whatever age – long enough to be taken seriously but short enough to digest.
Each track here comes out of the gate but hot. Four of the six begin straightaway with the guitar melody and full drums. The guitars are a balanced blend of new-wave tones and enough shoegazing effects to conjure The Rope’s forebears. The drums are usually dance beats. The bass and synths have the propulsion you could hear on any given Future Islands or early U2 track. But, where the band really nailed it is with the vocals. Jesse Hagon sings with a deep baritone that wanders into unintelligible territory when he sings quieter. This adds further drama to his invitations on “Where the Bones Lie:” “In the swirling darkness you will see a peace that you have never known.” Combining darkness with light and love appears all over the record, and helps The Rope to comfortably fit into the throwback genre in which they operate.
Though the recording and production are tight as can be, the band follow an uncannily predictable pattern in song structure. “Where the Bones Lie,” “Clockwork,” and the Jake Rudh-favored “Annie” each share a palm-muted guitar melody that enters in mid-verse. This and other slight crescendos build from about 20 seconds into each song, and inevitably land back on top of a chorus that’s always meant to be the focal point. The Rope would do well to mix up their forms and tones more. That being said, these are pop tunes at their heart, and it’s very possible that this delivery was intentional. “Clockwork” shakes things up a bit, trading club ready drumming for a tom tom-based groove that deepens the dark demeanor the band portray.
If you weren’t present for the bands previous performances, it’s time to get excited for the album release on December 12th. This is the ideal sound for a midsized local venue. With the season changing and the cold settling in, Hagon’s words will soften the blow of a Minnesota with few daylight hours. Although he sings “When your mind grows slow/and your life passes before you like a picture show” on “Clockwork,” he’s doing so with plenty of hot energy to spare for a crowd. The Rope flip the polarity on some dark subjects here, and their inclination to dance and move forward despite it all makes any these six tracks feel closer and more visceral than the dark purples depicted on the cover. All they ask is for is 24 quick minutes.
The Rope will celebrate the release of their new record on Saturday, Dec. 12th at the Triple Rock Social Club with Gloss, Oaks and Temple.
— Michael Cyrs, @mjcyrs