Rhubarb: See The Light.

18 March 2002 | 1:00 am | Matt Thrower
Originally Appeared In

Shoulder To Cry On.

Rhubarb launch Slow Motion at the Waterloo Hotel on Friday.

Rhubarb’s David Drinkall is quite aware of the eyebrows raised when his band released the single Light On Your Shoulder last year. Many people knew them as the authors and performers of Exerciser, a pop song filled to the gills with Ribena and shouting “Look mum, I’m a windmill!”

Light On Your Shoulder, by contrast, was a slow, lurching atmospheric beast with disembodied vocals and a peculiar, haunting intimacy. They’ve followed it up with Slow Motion, a return to pop, albeit a more crystalline; stately take on the genre than anything featured on 1999’s Kamikaze album. Then there’s the new album, also called Slow Motion, which the group will be launching with a performance at The Zoo on Friday night. The album is lush, diverse and adventurous. Dave agrees.

“Slow Motion and Light On Your Shoulder are both fairly different tracks,” he says. “There’s a fair variety of styles on the album. Our first album was essentially a situation where we didn’t really know what we were doing. We’d never recorded anything before and we did the whole thing, including mixing, in ten days. I think the title kind of sums that record up, Kamikaze. And, just to be the total opposite, this album’s called Slow Motion! We had 18 months to think about this one and we had a little bit more of an idea of what we were doing. We made a conscious decision to make a whole album that we were proud of. We’re a bit more sure of where we’re heading now.”

Why are Rhubarb so, well, different to their former selves?

“I think it’s maturity, basically. And being a bit truer to ourselves,” says Dave. “I don’t want to take anything away from our first album, because I still think as a body of work it’s pretty good. But we’ve kind of ditched that pop/extreme sports kind of thing and that’s a deliberate choice for us. We could have sat down and written songs in that vein, but instead we asked ourselves who we wanted to be. In order to be honest with ourselves, we realised we had to change people’s perceptions of us fairly quickly and that’s why we released Light On Your Shoulder as the first single. We thought, ‘This will spin people out who were expecting another Exerciser!’”

It was also the first released recording featuring new member Caleb James, production whiz and frontman of his own band Leo Nine (who will be also featuring on the launch night).

“Caleb produced the last record too and it was just unbelievable when he decided to come on board as a band member,” says Dave fondly. “I think Caleb brings a lot to the band in terms of his producing skills, he’s an unbelievable producer and also a very good songwriter. He sings a bit on the album, too. He brings so many strengths to the band. We were really heading in a different direction and Caleb coming on board really endorsed that. He would have produced our new record whether he was in the band or not. But some of the songs he wrote and some of the input he had really strengthened the album, because at the end of the day, he’s a bit of a musical genius!”

The sense of adventure in Rhubarb included certain extravagances when arranging the music on Slow Motion.

“We went a bit overboard and got an 18-piece string section to do all the strings on the album,” says Dave. “Last time we just had a quartet, but we decided to go up a level. The strings appear on a lot of the tracks. Of the 12 songs, they appear on eight or nine of them. A fair bit of time went into how this record sounded, it wasn’t just four guys in a room playing their instruments.”

Among those guys is Dave’s singin’, playin’ brother Steve.

“It’s actually really good,” says Dave of being in a band with a blood relative. “But we don’t really think of each other as siblings. We have a pretty good relationship, with not much stress. I’m the elder brother, so I’ve probably been guilty of asserting my dominance every now and then, heh heh! It’s taken me years to perfect it, mate, I’ve got to take advantage of it!”

But Ray and Dave Davies they clearly ain’t, so don’t expect any on-stage punch-ups. Just big-hearted pop music with shimmering melody and seductive sonic touches.