Review : TUB RING – "Secret Handshakes"

Tub RingSecret Handshakes
Release Date: 2010Aug31 (US)
Label: The End Records
Rating: 3/5

I don’t care how complex and enigmatic you purport to be—gimme some friggin’ songs. Tub Ring is one of those bands that frustrates me because something tells me that I ought to like this music. Like their namesake, their albums have lingered around my house for years, unreviewed and extremely difficult to remove (actually, that’s the half-truth:  I keep a clean shower). Every allusion to Mike Patton’s various projects triggers my happy sensors, but with the amount this band misfires, I keep questioning my own instincts. I can tell you one thing: their egoistic condescension truly radiates from the pages of their liner notes.

Something that recurs throughout Secret Handshakes are underdeveloped songs that end before you can figure out what just happened. The three-minute mark isn’t breached until the Brian May cover of “Flash”, as they pack in a multitude of freaky electronic riffs into every taut tune. More than anyone else, they bring to mind latter-day Dillinger Escape Plan, particularly Greg Puciato’s higher-pitched moments.

Their approach is particularly satisfying when they stray close to the heavy. The search for cosmic truth in “Stop This (NOW!)”, the oddity of freezing oneself for future thawing a la Walt Disney (“Cryonic Love Song”) is intriguing, and the xylophones-versus-ethereal-female-vocals add unique atmosphere in “Chronic Hypersomnia” (another 3+ minute track).

There is a palpable sense of desired Ween-ity that especially surfaces in places like “I Shot Your Faggot Horse Bitch” (perhaps their “Mister, Will You Please Help My Pony?”), but I think their transgressive aim misses its mark. You get a lot of that from Tub Ring. They end with the strong and memorable track, “The Horrible and the Holy”. Secret Handshakes is well-arranged as far as album balance goes, but you can’t help but yearn for consistency throughout more songs.

The album ends with the telling line: “If you’ve been listening, then you must understand…There’s always work left to be done.”. Well no doy, dudes. With fourteen tracks clocking in at a mere 38 minutes, I can’t help but wonder if this was rushed to completion, with lots of salvaged demos and a few proper songs. In the end, whether or not they defy categorization isn’t the question, how to focus their collective energies most certainly is.

FCC: 3, 9, 11
Try 1, 6, 10, 14

01. Stop This (NOW!)
02. Bird of a Different Color
03. Gold Finger
04. Touching the Enemy
05. Burn
06. Cryonic Love Song
07. Feed the Rapture
08. Flash
09. I Shot Your Faggot Horse Bitch
10. Chronic Hypersomnia
11. Optimistic
12. The Day the World Will End
13. Tip of My Tongue
14. The Horrible and the Holy

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