Bands like to test the boundaries of the styles they adopt early in their career. A chronological aural examination will attest to The Rosebuds innate ability to adapt to whatever their musical musings desire. Life Like is the first time The Rosebuds seem to be adopting a retrospective approach. The album is dedicated to Ivan’s grandfather (Bobby D) and Kelly’s grandmother (Becky). Grandparents are usually the ones that teach you to appreciate the art of reflection. They tell their own “back in the day” stories and you might wonder what you’ll sound like at that age. Sometimes you can’t believe what’s coming out of their mouths. Southerners like telling stories that wander off the path. Eventually, the story finds its way back to the conclusion. Whether or not you know how it got back to the point, the experience has the potential to leave you with a new influence.
The album’s opening track, “Life Like”, sounds like it will revisit the sounds made on their sophomore effort, Birds Make Good Neighbors. But then the bass and drums drop in. The distorted bass and clean drum beat organically mimic the electronic-induced vibe from their previous effort, Night of the Furies. The song is about a victim of taxidermy, or maybe its a tale of the example you become after you leave this realm (or neither). Whatever the context tells you, the songs’ pace sets the tone for what’s to come. A sense of urgency is always around the bend. The next song, “Cape Fear,” features Kelly’s delivery of melodically haunting vocals, especially when singing lyrics such as “Heard another catfish ate a man/ They got a search-team going in.” She’s got more information for you. It’s a story with curious avenues.
“Border Guards” is tale of escape. The song revisits that electronic niche with its use of efficient drums and sweeping string and cymbal swells. The melodies plucked and strummed from Justin Vernon’s acoustic axe seem so forlorn that one feels that this story will not have a happy ending. Ivan’s somber delivery of this tale only embellishes this notion: “I wonder where you are/ did you ever make it through/ The desert was a curse, lying still in wait for you/ There’s a coldness where you walked, and a silence in my yard/ How can I not need you now?” After the weight of that, it is nice to have “Bow to the Middle”, with its upbeat rhythm, somber guitar leads and Kelly’s call to dose-e-doe. Ivan sings of the devil, but not Lucifer. He sings of those song-and-dance types who just want your support so that they can leave to repeat the cycle in another quiet and innocent town. The song doesn’t resolve the listener to be the change they want to see in their life. Instead, enjoy the dancing of puppets and feel like a sucker for believing in a sucker, since “If you dance to the devils voice, you’re the devil too.” Of course that interprotation is just this southerners imagination running about.
A bevy of friends join the Rosebuds for the call-and-response ballad “Nice Fox”. Even though Ivan warns the fox over and over again, it never sticks and the fox goes from being nice to dead. But still giving him the name “Nice Fox” on its final marker bodes well for the songs positive feeling. That feeling soon disappears with “Another Way In”. The subject of the lyrics from the albums opener (“I know a clean way out”) are an obvious contrast here. Maybe it is intentional. Sonically, the song stands out from the rest of the album. “Concordia Military Club” drifts back into the albums established aural familiarity with a hearty tale. It sounds war related - possibly a re-telling of a Bobby D. original. This is the longest track on the record. Some stories take longer to tell than others. Sometimes the longer the story, the better it is. If you want the real Bobby D, listen for the elder Howard’s voice on the intro to “Hello Darling”. The instrumental that follows is a porch-swing ballad, with (according to the liner notes) “Brad Farrin whistling his ass off”.
“Black Hole” sounds like the perfect combination of country and shoegaze. Its My Bloody Valentine in Nashville. The songs content, a possible reflective on the Large Hadron Collider, (which if you’re not familiar with it, maybe you should google it) and the lost contents of someones most inner thoughts to never be read again, harks back to the art of telling a story. It is important to have these stories, their history, no matter what. A point of reference or view (however you see it), is important. The albums closer, “In The Backyard” is a more down to earth story, literally, about being down in the ground. A preacher tries to fool the families of those with those eerie Ouija boards. Ivan sings that “We all need to ask our Ouija boards what the spirits have to say.” Who wouldn’t want to hear what goes on in the afterlife? If it proved anything, it would prove that there IS an afterlife. I know some people would take comfort in that, especially when you may miss someone that’s passed. You still want those stories, those points of personal reference because they may help you understand a little something about yourself. Life Like is an audio tome you can drop anywhere in time. It can find its way back to you through some random story that seems familiar, that is, if you want it to.