Sunset Rubdown/Frog Eyes @ Mercury Lounge, NYC 5/22/06 & 5/24/06

Last Monday night’s Rubdown was just amazing. So pleasurable, in fact, that plans were cancelled, lives rearranged and admission secured for Wednesday night’s repeat. Two nights and four sets of Spencer Krug later, we’re left with the unalienable truth that not all songwriters are created equal. Krug’s a modern master. If he’s in a project, we’re all ears.

Night one kicked off with a solo Spencer on “I’ll Believe In Anything.” The Sunset/Wolf Parade gem had the Mercury kids yelling “Jesus!” mid-verse. Shit was sick. Sunset Rubdown’s material is sweeping and challenging, with prog-ish passages and bizarre melodic sense. But Krug delivers this stuff with such unique vocal style and presence that Sunset goes down easy as pop. No one’s writing like this.

Both nights had amazing renditions of “Stadiums and Shrines,” “I’m Sorry I Sang On Your Hands.” and Spencer on accordion for “They Took A Vote And Said No.” What both nights didn’t have was a tasty Prince cover. That was for night two: when about the time the Purple One was on Fox selling his soul to the Idol faithful, Rubdown was moving through an e-bowed out “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Wednesday also had the choice “The Men Are Called Horsemen There,” though at seven minutes you could see Spencer’s food poisoning catching up to him.

Still, Krug stuck it out for the late set, providing his masterful keys to Carey Mercer and Frog Eyes. We were in the minority when it came to this band. That is, among the handful that actually stayed for the sets, and the fewer still who thought Monday was great. With night two, however, Mercer’s mesmerizing vocal freak-outs seemed to be a consensus pick. It’s easy to point to the Krug factor, but that’s just the start of it. Buoyant bass-drum pulses underscore these twisted romps, and through spittle sprays, stage-staggering and mic assaults, you can’t tear away from Carey. The music sure as shit ain’t for everyone. But for those it hits, it’s a ton of bricks.

Monday was also a shot to check in with the blogosphere’s crown prince, Beirut. The kid’s making the right moves, with new ukeleles (that stayed in tune!) and a new violinist. Again, some arrangements fell limp, but the set was much more consistent, and Zach was having himself some fun. What’s next for the Condon crew? A show with a brass section! Now if he can just get a small chorus to pull off all those vocal harmonies, we’ll be in business.

Some Sunset pics:

Sunset Rubdown – “Stadiums & Shrines II” (MP3)