20 April 2021 (released)
19 April 2021
This year, unlike most in our privileged modern era, has shown us collectively all at once that circumstances beyond our control are always coming to upend our lives. Sure, each of us experiences moments of tragedy or upheaval at different points but rarely do we all get thrown the same curveball all at once. World wars and pandemics cause the world to take one giant step back to re-evaluate how we've been acting. To take stock of things we've taken for granted, things we've neglected, and who is really important to us. The hope is that we don't lose sight of the lessons we've learned the moment we've in the clear.
The Chris Ruben Band's latest release Madness On Repeat centres around the idea that unforeseen circumstances will always be somewhere on the horizon and you just have to roll with those punches as they come. Although the album is written about those day-to-day personal challenges that hit everyone in different ways, with the collective experience of the last year, it's a theme that we have all felt together in the last 12 months. The band is a crew of tight players laying down a funk with the modulating changes of Stevie Wonder driven by a Chili Peppers style backbeat. Madness On Repeat takes their signature sound and adds soulful alternative rock, blues, and elements of psychedelia to create a polished sound carried by plenty of snappy licks.
That playful bounce of slap bass and punchy straight-ahead drumming at the outset of 'Unsure' instantly conjures the chemistry of Flea and Chad Smith. The band settles into a sly, minor groove verse that busts open wide to a full force “California Alternative” chorus. Ruben hits those crisp vocals that jump right out of FM radio. 'Won't See You' follows touching on those emotional notes that a band like Train harnesses. Not a ballad but not quite a rocker, somewhere in between. More solid hit material.
With the two big obvious singles out of the way, the band loosens up a little more. 'Live Meltdown' gets loud and has the band get playful with tight guitar “chuckas”, sinking deeper into the groove and featuring some bigger Texas blues soloing. Ruben sticks mostly to a funky falsetto. 'Darling' is a bounding feel-good summer jam. Bubblegum lead synth hook, glistening lake electric piano, and Ruben having fun, hitting the high notes to push the climax. A tune crafted specifically for a sunny July festival. 'Prayer For Sadness' and 'Give It Up' take off with a punk rock energy and 'Cold Shoulder' opens up to indie disco off-beat hats, throwing different spices into their funky gumbo. The laid-back, behind-the-beat sway of 'Tell Me Why' is lifted by Ruben's passionate chorus vocals melding with the sidewinder synths. This mid-B-side groove ends up stealing the whole show.
Madness On Repeat is coming at us at the perfect time. Releasing auspiciously on 4-20, the unofficial start of summer in many areas. A collection of danceable sunny tracks made for these ever-lengthening days. In the light of 2021, it's fitting that they aren't just mindless fun. Instead, Ruben's lyrics acknowledge the inevitable trials and tribulations and he focusses on pushing through them with a spring in your step. You can't get mad at the rain.