Ever since The Rubens made an appearance in a ho-hum 2011 Triple J countdown, expectation has stalked them like a starving canine

Up until now, every challenge posed to the band has been promptly swatted away and sent home whimpering. When their breakout single ‘Lay It Down’ was pigeonholed as a fluke, the quartet responded with the ubiquitous ‘My Gun’.

Similarly, when their management presented an unforgivable touring itinerary, the boys countered with ‘full house’ signs from Goodgod to the Corner.

Regardless of this resolve, The Rubens’ true worth was always going to be judged on the strength of their debut album. Thankfully, they have acquitted themselves well.

The good news for followers is that the band has anchored the LP with a style reminiscent of their breakout singles. This means a reprise of ragged soul blended with gravelly rock.

The few variations on this mix – such as ‘The Best We Got’ and ‘Be Gone’ – retain a harder edge not dissimilar to the crunch of Powderfinger’s Vulture Street.

The debut is not without its flaws, however. This comes in the form of the album’s hot shot producer, David Kahne (Paul McCartney, The Strokes). Rather than harnessing the band’s visceral energy, Kahne has opted to proceed with a fuzzy, almost muted type of production.

As a result, tracks like ‘Surely Die’ don’t pop with the same ferocity as they do when spat live. The mind boggles with the possible results had someone like Mark Opitz (INXS, Paul Kelly) been behind the controls.

Still, it’s a fine first-up effort. It’s also one that leaves The Rubens at an intriguing crossroad.

Foundation fans will no doubt be miffed at hearing single ‘My Gun’ being barked by Triple M across countless construction sites. At the same time this is the type of popularity the band was hoping to perpetuate by hiring a producer like Kahne in the first place.

A sophomore album will dictate the band’s direction. In the meantime, to ascertain The Rubens’ true breadth of talent, buy a ticket and see them in their most unfiltered environment: live.

– Paul Bonadio

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