Rapider Than Horsepower – Rapider Than The World

2 out of 5

Label: Alone Records

Produced by: Jim Zespy, Mike Bridavsky, Nick Furnier, The Rapidudes

To say that Rapider Than Horsepower is messing with the listener on ‘Rapider Than The World’ doesn’t seem like a stretch – their whole loose-limbed, structure-averse approach thrives on being halfway between the most catchy and most bizarre thing you’ve ever heard (they are exactly what happens when several Racebannon dudes put away the pentagrams and try to write pop songs), and was messing with the ol’ ears from their outset – but it’s a shame when that wilful playfulness is pushed to the point that it ends up affecting the quality of the material.

There might be something in the title. The group’s first two (to my recollection of their chronology – though it’s possible this came out in the middle) albums felt a bit more intimate: Mike Anderson’s scrabbly, jittery vocals joined the shifting, deconstructed guitars and drums, infusing U.S. Maple off-timedness with drug-addled energy, and telling sing-songy tales that came across as somewhat strange, but also sort of positive, and silly. Somehow, this split the difference between those bits and pieces and delivered something affecting; RTH made me smile, versus Racebannon’s (or Maple’s) perpetual scowl. The album names seemed to reflect an innocent humility, to go along with that unique blend of sounds: Stage Fright, Stage Fright… and This Is My Big Night perhaps tell a “story” of someone preparing to make some big dramatic leap. …And then Rapider Than The World is the leap made, and it going to one’s head.

When the songs are in swing, they’re as brilliant as ever, and even more focused on the dichotomy of chaos and rhythm, with the instrumentation a mad and busy bluster, but tighter at the same time; Anderson zipping through his words atop with giddy confidence. There’s “commentary” before some tracks, though, that feels different: it makes the stuff offhand instead of confessional; RTH don’t care if you’re listening. Indeed, in the middle of the album drops non-song tone Where Am I Going? for ten minutes, and it seems like it’s structured solely to break any chance of actually listening to the disc with immersion. You might listen to this tone out of curiosity, but it’s a joke: it’s not building toward anything. We get back to music but are kind of burnt out; we recover, and then have the twenty minute tone at disc’s end – Wonder Why? – that precedes what I guess is a “secret track” of the band members chatting in silly voices with stoned enthusiasm, and it’s hard to not further judge the indifference of the material based on that. RTH albums are already short, and the scant amount of material we actually get vs. this kind of patience-baiting makes that shortness stand out – it doesn’t feel like enough.

And I’m sure I’m being unfair in a way, as if you factor out the extended tones and the chatter, I’ve complimented the music, but the overall presentation, to me, does that music a great disservice. I listen to my other RTH albums pretty regularly, and yet, I only ever put on Rapider Than the World to remember why I don’t listen to it.