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Rose Windows, ‘The Sun Dogs’ – Album Review

Sub Pop

Sub Pop may no longer be seen as the scrappy indie label of decades past, but not enough gets said about the commitment it has shown to its local Seattle talent. From early successes in the grunge era to the Postal Service, its biggest releases have been Seattle acts. And, a current glance at their roster reveals the Head and the Heart, Shabazz Palaces and, now, Rose Windows as a new generation of hometown heroes.

These local products also show the label’s willingness to depart from the norm, as none are indicative of what might be expected from Sub Pop. Rose Windows debut LP, ‘The Sun Dogs,’ confirms what might be common knowledge in the Pacific Northwest: This band can play. While the “psych” tag is tossed around at garage bands pretty freely, the psych of Rose Windows is different. ‘Native Dreams,’ might best exemplify this, with a flute and metal-indebted bass wrapping around each other like shoelaces, tight and precise and with purpose. The track ends up in stoner-rock territory, and Rose Windows seem like the first band since Black Mountain to really understand how to pull off this blend of Vietnam-era rock ‘n’ roll with the conviction and songwriting skill to make it fresh.

Rabia Shaheen Qazi can carry a song with her charcoal-coated voice, as ‘Season of Serpents’ shows. Amid spare instrumentation, the melody of the song is focused and ambulatory — an achievement, to say the least, with nothing to drag it down but the words that are sung. Where Rose Windows show some flaws are in the lyrics, which are often over the top in faux-poetic sophistication.

Composer and band leader Chris Cheveyo describes the album as being about “the everyday blues that capitalism and its hit man, religion, bring on all of us.” Unfortunately, Rose Windows have overshot with their ambition, attempting heightened language but proving rather inept. From ‘Indian Summer,’ which extends tree vocabulary to uncomfortable lengths, to ‘Wartime Lovers,’ which feels like it’s paying a half-hearted tribute to Jefferson Airplane with words like “this evening brought his end; his time / no tears from grief / just a virgin for his shrine / a floral wreath / and the shame for his crime.”

Much of the fun that seems like should be present in the retro sounds of Rose Windows is simply missing, as self-seriousness doesn’t play when you struggle to have anything musically original to offer. In the end, the big question surrounding Rose Windows is whether you believe them. Listen closely, and you shouldn’t, but fortunately for Rose Windows and for Sub Pop, big words presented as deep thoughts are pretty great when you’re high.

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