Sometimes listening to an album is akin to cooking up a well-made risotto. You have to sample a record carefully before putting it on the back-burner to simmer away and intensify. Each time you listen to the album after that, the process requires a little patience, letting each slop of musical stock absorb fully to draw out the flavoursome goodness before you make a judgment. Once you’ve enjoyed your meal (and instagrammed it, if that’s how you roll) it leaves you feeling fulfilled and content. The Ruby Suns’ latest album however is far more like a humble, low-hassle toastie; pop in a few inoffensive ingredients, and within minutes you have an edible, but very forgettable result.
Wary of sounding like we’ve let Nigella loose on our reviews section, the culinary comparisons stop there; but the point still stands. From the first note of ‘Desert of Pop’, The Ruby Suns’ manifesto is set out before us, and it’s a drastic departure from Ryan McPhun’s previous work. Christopher stomps loudly into life, diving headfirst into a pool of glossy pop hooks without wasting a moment. “I’m always falling in love” cries McPhun amidst a wash of hi-octane dance beats and glimmering euro-melodies, and it would seem he’s fallen head over heels for pop. ‘In Real Life’ is cast from the same mould, and, distractingly, it feels as if the main hook has been pulled directly from Ottawan’s ‘D.I.S.C.O’. The overall effect is that you’re too busy thinking about pop done properly – with an oozing filling of cheesiness – to quite embrace The Ruby Suns’ slightly half-hearted efforts.
Carrying on in monotonous fashion, Christopher quickly begins to feel as if it’s missing a guest slot from Alexandra Stan, and the initial novelty quickly begins to wear off too. While the album is pleasant enough listening, and certainly doesn’t make you want to block up your ears, it is just too plastic-sounding to yield any lasting substance. Frustratingly, there are glimmers where the balance is spot-on, and the lost potential is the only heart-breaking thing about Christopher. ‘Futon Fortress’ is still propelled forward by pounding drums, but it has a gritty edge that snags at your dwindling attention span. ‘Rush’ has a squelching bass-line that jumps out from beneath the dirge that dominates the rest of the record.
No matter how many people make scathing comments about the musical wares of Justin Bieber, writing a decent pop record is extremely difficult, and requires total commitment. The Ruby Suns might immerse themselves in the cause initially, but they soon come back up for air, and that sense of escapism is gone and forgotten all too soon. Quickly Christopher becomes a rather banal album of indie-fodder, and after a few cursory listens, it is not likely to give you anything other than an intense urge to yawn and leave the dancefloor.