When last we heard from R.Ring - a duo comprised of Kelley Deal of The Breeders and Mike Montgomery of Ampline - they’d released their debut LP, Ignite The Rest. Since this was all the way back in April 2017 (essentially decades ago in Modern Time), you’d be forgiven for not remembering just how good that record is. Or how excited you should be for their sophomore effort, War Poems, We Rested.
Where Ignite The Rest spent much of its runtime swirling in atmosphere if not dissonance, not so gently jostling listeners from track to track, their latest drops listeners right into the fray, wasting no time in setting a tone that’s almost, but not quite, straightforward. Relatively speaking, anyway. For fans of You Forgot It In People-era Broken Social Scene, or The Woods-era Sleater-Kinney, and dare I say, the later works of Lemuria (a great band that never got their due), War Poems, We Rested is sonic catnip.
As a layered and emotive Rock Record, there are tracks that linger in thought, melodies stuck on repeat, subtle and pointed at the same time. Album opener “Still Life” rings a literal bell, swaying into existence and reminding us, immediately and urgently, that this is a duo of musicians still tapping unknown sources of inspiration. Breathy, insistent, with twangy leads over howling backing vocals, mixed with a throbbing bassline and wall of sound guitar. It spills over, unstoppable, into the jauntily dissonant “Hug.” Deal’s vocals are easy, almost sultry, layered, warbling, the pitch perfect fuzziness of the guitars building on an anthemic rock song that tilts towards disfunction, but closes almost abruptly, winding down to something gentle.
Next, Montgomery, in falsetto, saunters into the proceedings. “Stole Eye” is a strange singalong in the making, with swirls of acoustic guitar over fuzz over the cavernous drums make for a sweaty, smoky tableau. It’s hard not to imagine a small club in NYC, absolute delirium at 2am, singing along quietly, passionately.
The album - as a whole, and as encapsulated in just the first few tracks - is as much of the moment as it is a bit of a throwback. Considering the DNA of the band, that seems obvious, but it’s hard to overstate just how well done every aspect of this record plays on repeat listening. “Cartoon Heart Build Me a Question” is a raucous art-punk jam, which in some mad, brilliant way follows the lazy, ruminative “Exit Music.” The dark funk and twang of “Def Sup” - think Warpaint - somehow, some way, still makes sense.
It feels like War Poems, We Rested is over just as soon as it begins. So many of the tracks are detailed sketches, ideas that get a detailed treatment and never, ever play too long to intrude on what comes next - even if you want more of what’s happening on a particular track. Maybe that’s why, as a whole, the album can veer from piano driven ballads like “Embers On A Sleepwalk” to slinky, distorted “Volunteer” and still make sense. And would I listen to an entire album of tracks like “War Poem,” the album’s melancholy instrumental closer? Yes. Yes I would. Again, it’s a testament to two musicians who have figured out some weird alchemy that only they can achieve, and, for this humble listener, it is a goddamn delight.
War Poems, We Rested, releases on January 27, through the ever awesome Don Giovanni Records. As of now, the first 125 records pre-ordered come with a book of poetry inspired by songs on the album. And yes, I just ordered mine.