Rah Bras


Anyone who’s witnessed the sublime delight of Rah Bras’ stripped-to-the-thong drummer and vocalist Jean Rah crooning Ginuwine’s “Pony” might expect the Richmond, Va., trio’s first full-length to damn near outshine the sun. Especially when it features said Rah on the disc’s black metal-esque cover dressed in drag and wielding a sword. But whereas Rah Bras’ live show explodes with big-bang-worthy immediacy, Ruy Blas! emanates more of a slow-burn brilliance. Though the band is more than capable of Ruins-style speed and time-signature changes, it initiates us here with “Bababoon,” a piano-driven midtempo groove that sounds like Girls Against Boys spinning some Planet of the Apes-inspired surrealism: “Baa-baa bababoon sucked a baby right from its womb.” The proceedings don’t kick into high gear until the ridiculous hard rock of the fifth song, “Sooop Toe Pump Girls,” which is driven by Boo Rah’s distorted lead-bass riffing. And the band quickly slows things back down with an even-squishier-than-the-original all-electronic cover of “Gently Johnny” (here redubbed “Gently Jean Rah”) from the 1973 British cult film The Wicker Man: “I put my hand on your breast and you said, ‘Do you want a kiss?’” Only “Fungry,” which alternates between heavy, grunting rock and faux Bollywood soundtrackisms, is the kind of blissfully spazzy cyberprog that the band delivered on earlier EPs and compilation appearances. Some of this kinder, gentler, more linear stuff even gets downright ethereal, thanks largely to Isabellarah Rubella’s quasi-operatic vocalizing and sometimes spacey keyboards. Despite their art-damaged titles, “Spankish Flies” and “Cleavage Multrum” are at their core relatively straightforward pop songs more notable for Rubella’s soaring vocals than anything going on in the rhythm section. The disc’s Captain Beefheart-fronting-New Order highlight, “Bitchin Fissure” (“Bitchin fissure/You’re been so measured/Crack the Buddha/Our dirty scholar”), however, is so effortlessly tweaked and unselfconsciously cool that it should make 99.44 percent of the music-making populace rethink its career path. But like the rest of Ruy Blas!, this dance-pop gem doesn’t so much hit you over the noggin as slowly seep into your consciousness. —Brent Burton