Rick Rubin's Road to Ruen—The Ruen Brothers' "All My Shades of Blue"

The faded Crown (or Coronet) Records cover art, the borrowed “360 Sound” “Stereo” arrows in the top strip where “Ruen Brothers” replaces “Stereo” and the retro attitudinal looks on the faces of the two brothers, one wearing string tie, one not, hint at what’s in the grooves of this audacious Rick Rubin produced debut of the brothers RUpert and hENry Stansall also known as the Ruen Brothers. They are not poseurs. They are serious. They are on a “wake up” mission that’s been developing for four years.

The brothers’ expressions on the cover will be somehow familiar to older observers, yet fresh and provocative. One is looking away not quite disdainful, the other scowls off camera gravely yet not quite menacingly. Where have you seen this before? When the Everly Brothers weren’t smiling they could look this way. But so could Johnny Rotten.

Play the record. What is this? Listening is to feel like a pinball bouncing off electrified genre bumpers labeled “ alt-country”, “punk”, “British Invasion”, “country-politan”, “Wall of Sound” and just plain “folk”.

You bounce off artist bumpers too: the majesty of Roy Orbison, the energy of The Sex Pistols, the anthemic brazenness of Gene Pitney, the controlled banshee audacity of David Byrne and even The Four Seasons (!) and maybe Frankie Laine, though I bet the brothers haven’t heard him (could be wrong). You don’t directly hear any of those artists. You just “hear” them.

Ultimately though your ball bounces off the biggest bumper on the playing field labeled “Ruen Brothers”. These young English guitar-playing guys from Scunthorpe have taken their influences and spun them into something new, refreshingly aggressive and bracing, yet not at all menacing. The melodies are old-school big, the drama is high, yet the mood insists on playfulness.

If the title tune doesn’t pump your adrenalin and get various hairs standing on your body, then “Motor City” will and if that doesn’t, side two’s opener “Aces”, with its “Watch That Man” opening and repeated riff, will! If not, you’ve likely been the whole time on life support and not capable of paying attention.

I don’t know which brother does most of the singing, but he’s got a forceful, pure, laser-focused voice that pleasingly tears right through you. It quickly becomes addictive. This is one of the few new records I find myself repeatedly playing. After years of whiny, self-absorbed, over-sensitive white dudes, I can’t get enough of these guys, who cut directly through the bullshit!

Rick Rubin found the duo, signed them to Republic Records and brought them, back in 2014, to Shangri-La Studios where this was produced using a live band featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith, Small Faces’ Ian McLagan, The Killers’ guitarist Dave Keuning and no click track to put a governor on their exuberance.

Not surprisingly, the production is smart and ear-catching. Listen to how Rubin uses the echo buss to create an unearthly environment for the background singers on the album’s only cover, Hank Cochran’s “Make the World Go Away”. You can hear Rubin advising the brothers to include at least one calmative ballad that’s smartly placed after the rousing title tune.

And not surprisingly Rick, as he often does, lays a heavy hand on Shangri-La’s compressors. I wish for just this one he’d have laid off it! The results are loud but don’t let that stop you from picking this up. It still sounds great even squashed to within an inch of its life.

Highly recommended!

Music Direct Buy It Now

COMMENTS
Anton D's picture

I was all-in up until you saved me from unhappiness by mentioning the compression.

I’m not being an audiophile about it, it’s just that listening to these over compressed things remind me of TV commercial sound and turns me away.

Please tell Rick that if he’s gonna make an LP pressing, let it breathe!

Thank you for a great review, it sounds musically right up my alley. I am sad I will be missing it.

Michael Fremer's picture
That's crazy! It's a really good production, well-recorded and not stupidly compressed. Just unnecessarily so. You'll be the loser!
Anton D's picture

However: if you ever saw the film "Sideways," think of me as Miles speaking as they walked into the party; then substitute "compression" for "merlot."

;-D

Chemguy's picture

...Love it, Michael! Now, I want to support this group with a proper purchase. Do you recommend CD, since the compression may prohibit vinyl listening pleasure?

Dorian Workman's picture

Unlikely!

Michael Fremer's picture
The record is still worth getting. I can't stop playing it!
ajpanic's picture

Thank you for sharing this record. I took a risk on it based on the description of the music, and it is infectious. It's a unique blend of genre's and styles. It's simply a fun record that makes it easy to get over the compression.

evkatz's picture

A great record, but i have less problem with the compression that a harsh high end, particularly in the vocal. It's very reedy and almost sounds distorted when he pushes his voice. Anyone else hear this? It's better on the vinyl than on the CD.

Anton D's picture

It's interesting!

Been through it twice.

Impressions:

1) Roy Orbison has a kid in the music business?

2) Where in this whole operation is David Lynch pulling the strings?

3) After reading what Evkatz said, there is an upper vocal register emphasis, especially when the singer cranks it up. (Not a musical criticism.)

4) I hear a whole bunch of The Strokes on "Genevieve, Come Out Tonight." Please go play The Strokes' "Last Night" and then play Genevieve again.

5) Meat Loaf could cover several of these songs.

6) There are so many influences to hear, it becomes original. (Meant as 100% compliment.)

7) The album made me want to see them live. (What!?!? No northern California dates! Stupid L.A.)

8) Amazingly mature and very well assembled album. I did not find any clunker songs.

9) Mike called it, it benefits from repeat play. There's a lot going on on many tracks, you can let your attention drift into different parts of a song, a very enjoyable thing. Would you say it's "well layered," then? I like that I can listen at different "depths" in the mix.

10) There is a singer named "LP" who has some similar vocal mannerisms.

11) "Motor City" could be a James McMurtry song.

Dang, I can hear Jefferson Airplane, Marshall Crenshaw....loads of impressions. Really a fun listen to go from song to song.

Thumbs up!

Made it through my third play writing all that...I will play it for people.

Anton D's picture

My 20 year old son, his girlfriend, and two other friends joined us for dinner tonight and we played this.

My son’s girlfriend said, “They sound British.”

Wow! Another kid guessed ‘Irish!’

All more accurate then I!

All in all it went well and they found the sound to be ‘authentic.’

The world’s future is in good hands.

Mike, your post has stimulated much enjoyment and conversation!

Murf's picture

Interesting that Dave Kuening is on guitar because the lead vocal reminded me of Brandon Flowers--only right at first...

Anton D's picture

Great pick up!

He is also one of those singers that does not "look like his voice."

I have been playing this for more people and it has been well received.

Kirby's picture

Love the tunes but yes a little too compressed, only a 7 of 10 on my system, but yes great singing and song writing. Not sure what Rick had in mind with the compression, but easily could have been a 10 of 10 with a little better sound. Again , thanks for the heads up.

grey17's picture

What a great album, thank you for bringing this to our attention! Yes it could have been improved with less compression or being all analog but that doesn't get in the way of the underlying musical enjoyment.

X