Ruckzuck: “Back To The Warmth” Album Review

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Written By: Anthony Hamilton

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With their third album, Pennsylvania based space-rock trio Ruckzuck fights fearlessly for their love of music. While it touches upon themes of identity, consciousness, and environmentalism, amongst others, Back To The Warmth is ultimately an album born from the band’s passion for exploring  new sonic-frontiers. Ambitious guitarist and producer, Nick Bedo guides Ruckzuck on the conceptual journey while Faith Kelly and Mack Bedo whimsically augment their own respective roles as vocalist and drummer by experimenting with a menagerie of noise making gizmos.

While this kind of self-indulgent behavior occasionally risks clutter or even ostentatiousness, the trio generally manages their tools well enough to define some beautifully psychedelic landscapes.

“Coming Up” invites listeners into the album with a simply smooth synth wash before Mack Bedo pounds out the intro to the Flaming Lips-esque “Future Shock,” where the band unpacks their bag of tricks. Faith Kelly’s carpe-diem lyrics are sublimated by the galloping optimism of the lead guitar melody until the track explodes into the album’s first densely layered jam and Ruckzuck proves themselves to be true to their name.

For “Alan’s Garden,” Nick Bedo channels Tony Iommi more so than Steve Drozd. Strong, well-defined power chords outline the song as Faith Kelly belts out ironically reverb-muddied lines about clearing her mind. The band briefly drops out at the 2:30 mark to welcome in Crystal Mind Design for a psychedelic powwow before launching into the final wah-riddled guitar solo to close out the album’s most true-to-form rock song.

By its midpoint the album is unfortunately devoid of most of the enthusiasm and ingenuity with which it began. “I Ruined The Moon” starts with a clever facsimile of a chase scene from an 80’s thriller film but then crawls along formlessly for over six-minutes. With “Krishna Rock” the band forgoes songwriting altogether but at least achieves the novelty of blending Indian chants and percussion with Ruckzuck’s signature sounds of droning electronics and guitars. “Miss Candy” hosts a couple of circusy, fairly memorable instrumental sections, but otherwise unfolds without great impact. The real mire of the album, “J Walking” lacks everything that makes Ruckzuck great: Mack Bedo’s vocals can’t possibly match the soaring clarity of Faith Kelly’s, the guitar idly trickles out forgettable melodies, and even the electronic experimentation seems to lack the fun-spiritedness so critical to the trio’s sound.

Faith Kelley immediately resurrects this spirit however, wielding her electric ukelele on the driving war-cry, “Jan 10.” Though the track doesn’t develop much in structure, it represents a reemergence and functions well as the cinematic transition into the third leg of the album. The trio follows Stanley Kubrick’s iconic eon-spanning cut from hot primal instinct to cold scientific domination as the pounding drums at the end of “Jan 10” make way for the dark synthesized blips of “Worms Are Here.” A Vincent Price style narration of a man’s cosmic awakening, spoken over the band’s three minute sci-fi crescendo foreshadows the album’s grandiose finale.

“Reality Has Lost Its Touch” begins by revisiting a stylistic trope from Ruckzuck’s debut album with Faith Kelley singing anti-media, anti-technology lyrics in a deliberately campy melody over an even campier ukelele but as if to depict opposite ends of an evolution once more, the band revamps this melody in their contemporary way for the second half of the song- a wall of synths and screaming guitars dominate the track, claiming the melody as their victim along the way.

The final track on the album, “Oh You! / You’re You!” marches along cooly for three minutes, enjoying textured, drawn out synths before briefly jumping into an initial high energy blitz. The second time the band makes this leap, Mack Bedo shines brightly on his throne. For thirty seconds, his drum solo pauses the action of the song- just long enough that when the thick, multi-layered instruments do reappear, they do so as a victory lap, splashing about in celebration. 

While Back To The Warmth may be a far cry from the accessibility of Ruckzuck’s debut album, tracks such as “Jan 10” and “Worms Are Here” logically follow the band’s parabolic trajectory as defined by their sophomore album. For listeners hoping for some semblance of pop-formatting, Ruckzuck makes provisions by way of “Future Shock” but the album’s general shift from traditional songwriting towards atmospheric productions, curated by Nick Bedo’s evolving production savvy, allows for the trio to perform increasingly unique and thrilling musical acrobatics which promise a dynamic future for the band.