An innately positive and beautiful take on trying to get through the bleakness of life.
The third album from indie/folk rock band Under the Rug moves on from the blistering ‘Dear Adeline‘ (released early in 2022), an album chronicling the breakup of a relationship and grief over the loss of a beloved mother. The band consists of lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Casey Dayan, guitarist Sean Campbell and drummer Brendan McQueeney and over a period of ten years or more they have been making a name for themselves with their quirky, enigmatic, sometimes beautiful songs, They have, during this time and with a very heavy working schedule, built up a substantial fan base of devoted followers (known via their FB page as Rug Rats), more recently via a big push from Spotify. With a first tour on the near horizon and discussions with major labels in New York, it may be time for them to break out to a wider audience.
As a testament to their hard work ethic, Dayan and McQueeney both learned to play new instruments during lockdown, mandolin and piano respectively, which both play a good part of the instrumentation on ‘Homesick for Another World‘ (notably on the opener ‘Turkey Vulture’), together with slide guitar from guest Ariel Posen on a couple of tracks. The album of mostly slow songs confronts dealing with life and death head on, treats everyday loneliness with compassion and a little humour and is shot through with elements of optimism. The overall theme works along the lines of ‘everything might be pretty dire, something is wrong the whole time and things should be better but how do you get to that better place’. Dayan strives to find the positive amidst all the negative vibes, many exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Portrayals of sleep and lonely and grim (basically a word used in this context to describe a bad place) abound throughout the album – “Every time your thoughts get grim, you just close your eyelids tight, and let the sunshine make it red. La da, da da dee da, wishing all your cares away, and you sing that good thing one more time” from ‘Dead Man on the Lawn’, a lovely but bleak song reconciling a hard past (Dayan’s mother’s boyfriend was shot in front of him in the garden) with a present in which you are trying to be happy.
‘Panacea‘ is a song about what we learn about, and how we cope with, the things that freak us out, notably death –“ the nightmares you once thought would be forever, were always just a phantom that would vanish in the air, You won’t have to ever be afraid, ever again, You won’t, never again”.
Dayan has a clear versatile voice, put to good effect particularly on ‘I should be sleeping’, a highlight, and the lead single ‘Lonesome & Mad’ with its dramatic opening “I feel like I want to go home, but I am home”, a favourite singalong with knowledgeable Rug Rats. The album repays repeated listens and its sentiments get right under the skin, its often Beatle-esque production and wordless harmony choruses are interesting such reference points, and its varied percussion quirks keep coming.
Under the Rug will almost certainly gain a higher profile, and if they sign to a major label, it will be interesting to see whether they can maintain their fiercely independent stance. They are certainly a band to watch.