Rondo Brothers

No Time Left on Earth

(Coup de Grace; 2004)

By Chet Betz | 8 November 2007

n Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, one of the finest shots takes place during a Hawaiian dusk with luau singers and their soft strains aiding the digestive systems of tourists. To dream ideally is to think that perhaps the Rondo Brothers dug this kind of Hawaiian music out of ancient coconut crates and used samples that still crackled of volcanic dust and the half-century stick of spilt citrus. To those sounds they could have added jazzy breaks, creating beats for evening strolls with Emily Watson on the beach or on the streets. That’s to dream, but the reality is told in the garish, sunny album artwork with its big-head Hawaiian cartoons filled in by every color in a kid’s marker box. No Time Left on Earth is not Punch Drunk Love and Jon Brion whimsy; this is more like the soundtrack to Happy Gilmore Does Hawaii. Hell, somebody cut a scuba-diving Shrek montage to “Aquarium Dreams.”

The album staves away sufficient potential for the former possibility, the more matured and sedate romanticism, to validate mourning of a missed opportunity. The technical proficiency of the Rondo Brothers errs on the side of too professional; every element sounds just a little too full and glossy, and the mixing’s ridiculously judicious. But, quibble as the “independent” consumer might, chops are chops, and the Rondo Brothers have them. When they apply their skills for the purpose of evoking a true blue Hawaiian mood, they unearth some pearls out of the scorched sand. “King Kamehameha” whirls with gargling plucks and hip-hopping horn blasts around dying beach fires and the spackled drums unfortunately rare on No Time Left on Earth. Successor “Walk on Fire” succeeds only half as well, but it sounds like Hawaii in the sun in a genuine way, unlike Top 40 Grass Skirt Hits like “Aquarium Dreams” and “Hey Stewardess.”

Indeed, the chorus to “Hey Stewardess” bounces infectiously, but it’s a guilty pleasure too guilty. “Pineapple Wine” doesn’t let the listener off the self-loathing tip; like Paul Barman with emptied umbrella drinks, Poach Stevens drops a couple truly reprehensible rap verses, but the fun beat and wonderfully drawled titular hook prevent the discriminatory skip. Bob Byers’ Tropicana Rufus Wainwright act deforms an otherwise inoffensive “Stereo Pirate” into a flamboyantly defective song with purple peg leg and rainbow eye patch. The downward spiral of the album’s grating faults hits rock-fucking-bottom with “Ukulele Poo-Poo Platter,” wherein Poach Stevens returns to continue the annoying emcee act and actually says, “My life is like a ukulele poo-poo platter, go poo-poo, go poo-poo…” Poach Stevens is the guy who shat in the Hawaiian punch and called it entertainment.

To completely dismiss the album would be turning a deaf ear to lush, unique instrumental tracks like “Paradise Cove” or the Tricky-to-place trip-hop of “Sacrifice,” but to recommend the album would be turning the same ear to its filler, its numerous vocal contributions of the very bad sort, and its general Lilo and Stitch atmosphere. And thanks to the potty mouths of a couple lame-ass rappers and Mr. Poach Stevens, parents can’t even bring the kids.