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The Rosebuds - The Rosebuds Unwind

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Artist: The Rosebuds

Album: The Rosebuds Unwind

Label: Merge

Review date: May. 26, 2005

The Rosebuds write two kinds of songs: perky, simplistic pop songs and slow, dry pop songs. Their debut, The Rosebuds Make Out, showed that the two are not mutually exclusive; with a sort of shabby charm, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp combined pep and earnest composition for an album's worth of unhurried, undemanding, and pleasingly unremarkable tunes. The combination was in a way the record's saving grace, staving off the insipid boy-girl duo posturing of the White Stripes (let them make out if they want to, they're not siblings) and the genteel dullness of most post-Yo La Tengo indie rockers.

The band's subsequent EP, The Rosebuds Unwind, is similar to Make Out in just about every way, except now that rough synthesis of exuberance and understatedness has been cleaned up and straightened out. The former is oil and the latter water, and the elements are finally separating, such that it's all the more possible to distinguish the frenzied rock numbers from the affably loping thinkpieces - and, in turn, what works from what doesn't. "El Camino," the highlight of Unwind, is great because it straddles the divide so simply: its first half mopes gently through a chorus or two, then like clockwork a layer of fuzzy distortion comes in and rocks gloriously to conclusion. It seems like the easiest thing in the world; the very coexistence of the two moods is enough.

The other tracks don't fare quite as well, though, particularly the livelier ones in the bunch. Opener "You Better Get Ready" is hepcat pep at its most hollow, complete with third-person use of the band's own name ("With the Rosebuds on the radio / she'll be yours forever more"). The closing duo, "Edmund Street" and "I'd Feel Better," is considerably more likable, thanks to some inventive choruses and, well, actual personality, but the quieter centerpieces are still much better. "Is There Room," a near exact replica of Make Out's "Big Heartbreak," is a nice contemplative ditty with a shuffling rhythm, while the lush near-lounge groove of "Unwind" makes up for its overly repetitive structure. Both sound like the band before the strands of their schtick were isolated, and sound tangibly better for it. They're no gentler, and really no different, from what came before; the languid, winningly dull charm is still there, it just seems more precious amidst the stuff that's dull unintentionally. For a six-song EP it's unfortunate that Unwind strays as often as it does, but during its high points it's easier to see what makes good Rosebuds songs better than ever before.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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