Personnel: David Kahne (programming).
Audio Mixer: David Kahne.
Australian rock outfit the Rubens' 2012 self-titled debut showcases the band's dark, melodic soulful pop. Centered around the literate baritone croon of lead singer/songwriter Sam Margin (vocals/guitar), the Rubens also include Sam's brothers Zaac and Elliott on guitar and keyboards, as well as drummer Scott Baldwin. Produced by David Kahne, who's worked with everyone from Matthew Sweet and Fishbone to Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney, the album finds the band splitting the difference between a Baroque, piano-driven '60s pop approach and a contemporary, bass-heavy garage rock sound. Think Britain's Ed Harcourt meets the Black Keys. On their own, the Rubens would probably sound like a tight, stripped-down unit, but with producer Kahne deftly window-dressing the Rubens' songs with a variety of extracurricular ornamentations -- from sweeping orchestral strings to punchy horns -- their sounds become swathed in an echo chamber of spaghetti western twang. This lends a moody, bluesy atmosphere to catchy, passionate songs about young men on the cusp of adulthood struggling with romantic entanglements and inner doubts. On "The Best We Got," Margin opines, "Girls like me if they're younger/ But girls my age want guys older/Guess I'm just stuck in the middle/ Between easies and girls unattainable/Yeah they say, these days are the best we got/What a tragic thought." Indeed, though the album's rootsy approach lends an air of machismo, the content of the songs remains plaintive, revealing a band never afraid to show their wounds. On "My Gun," Margin cries, "I forgave my girl, I don't wanna be alone/She took me back and stitched me up/The whole time smiling 'cause she'd won/But one day I'll get back my gun." If success is the best revenge, Margin and the rest of the Rubens are right on target. ~ Matt Collar