Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
There's no telling what North Carolinian band The Rosebuds were referring to when it named its last album "Life Like." It could have been hinting at simulations, the ways that people have evolved into less than humans, more like the machines that they were supposed to be replaced with long ago by science fiction writers and doomsday palm readers. It could have been a take on the various ways that, even when we're alone as people, out amongst those things that carry life but aren't as alive as we'd ever really give them credit for - the trees and the leaves and the grasses, etc. - living there, giving us our air and gobbling all of the shit we exhale and expel, taking it in as the richest nutrients imaginable, their favorite dishes. It was likely something of a compromise of the two thoughts - both substantially different from one another. On one hand, we have a species degenerating into another form that's just remotely discernable as containing the basic elements of life, making it only life-like and not without a question, all life. Then you have the overachieving parts of nature - a subject and setting that Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp have taken great pleasure in considering over the course of numerous albums on Merge, one of the grandest labels in all of the country and certainly the pride and joy of the Tar Heel state - that are becoming something that scares the bejesus out of us, all of us becoming more like them and less like ourselves. The Rosebuds have a brilliant way of taking us out into the tobacco fields, feeling the drying of the leaves and the crumbly, dusty as a drought would have them be gravel roads and then get us to hear things, to think that some sneaky evil forces were at work and moving in on us, way out here in the middle of nowhere. It was in a setting like this - out where the closest neighbors are between and a half mile and a full mile away, the postman always knocks twice and where the goings on are oftentimes between the ravens, the grasshoppers and the steamy sun - where Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil and Howard and Crisp make the backdrop of such a transaction seem possible on "Life Like." Songs assume eerie skins and Howard points us in the way of such situations that could be taken for that mythical meeting of a man and someone who could give him all that his heart desired, all with a simple scribbling of a signature. Howard gives a warning in "Border Guards," suggesting, "If you dance to the devil's voice, then you're a devil too," and that would make us all one, the fingerprints staining our own hands and lower backs as the dancing or the deals go down. It's as if Ouija boards are used as clocks and as mirrors on "Life Like," carrying the characters floating through the active parts of the rustic songs to whatever destinations they think they're heading toward regardless of what they do to try and stop them. There's a sense of abduction and that of denial and that of regeneration or rebirth that streaks through this sunset fuzzed collection of songs - the dwindling light offering any possible errors in recognizance. These are the sleepy, but harmless dreams and nightmares of those with a need to believe that these devils and spirits are out there, always scheming and trying to work through the locks on the doors, ready to find an open window.
The Rosebuds Official Site