The Rhombus

Bupkes

(Self-released; 2004)

By Dom Sinacola | 19 August 2007

So, it’s been, givertake, a year an’sum months since this album’s been out. Cody Hennesy, the one and the only the Rhombus, already has a collection of new songs in their “final push,” to see the light of day as soon as Cody gets over how he thinks they all suck and how he promises to chuck them into the ocean. He’s from San Francisco and can live up to those promises, even though he’s chided away from the coast, toward Chicago, by work with Kent Lambert/Roommate and smeared around by Zach/“I like hip-hop the best, I’m from the Midwest”/Coolzey and Public School Records.

What we have for now is a debut album from a “recording project” that’s evolving as a touring jabber-pop band. We confront it now, not apologetically, mind you, —as Chad Van Gaalen’s ripple of bigger than bedroom art could see MTV2, as Andrew Broder’s put out something new, as Why? makes the last of us admit he does pop winningly — because we can. Because Bupkes has gone too long unheeded and whatever new the Rhombus has yet to save from a watery grave will most likely be looser, gaspier, and more lucid, which may or may not have anything to do with recording techniques, but will still maintain a distance from the “hermetic” first child.

I mean that more people will be playing on the next album. I also mean that Bupkes, recorded over 2003, released in different formats over 2004, slips gently from cut to cut, movement to movement, without disrupting the staggered puzzle palette of many similarly lauded ventures. It does sound insular, hushed, watery, quirky, sure, humble: not as cute as Fog, or as sour as Why?, and it doesn’t spend a summer wandering post-college through Europe like Infiniheart; but then, unfortunately, not as startling, or experimental, or as candy bar grand as these, either. “Reflections of a Charbroiled Whiz-Kid,” let’s use as an example, is in three parts, united by not much more than a distinctively teenage angst, which kinda makes sense with the title. The first is a paddly acoustic strum weighed by closed chords, the second is an ominous synth drone, and the third is so bare it returns the listener to the heft of the previous two parts. Short, too.

In fact, if one were to slice this tiny corrugated ditty up, rearrange the shards, one could inch toward the order of the parts being, gulp, trivial? Okay, not that far, but as closing Bupkes memorial, “Mountain,” reveals, one could find oneself inclined to jambalaya this whole baby. It even seems like instrumentals “The Cognitivists” and “Mandelbrot Set,” an island shuffle and a wheezy jam, respectively, could tag anywhere. One wouldn’t assume to demote Cody’s presentation of his own work to a suggestion, but the overall implication of wary, slipshod orbits leaves one with an immediacy of creation, which in turn predicts a snuggling intimacy. It’s just…have you tried to press warmly against Takk…? Your nose will bleed…(…so, I can indulge myself slightly and switch “Night” and “Lifeguard” around.)

Yeah, rudimentary mentions include: 1) lyrics that sporadically reach greatness, involving childhood vignettes and colors of spelunking innocence, popsicles and Mario Kart, etc.; 2) nasally tuneful vocal melodies that push Rhombus’s register enough to not get stagnant, that multiply and stand back for accordions or bristling drum loops; 3) dynamic shifts plenty, volumes and crescendos unexpected or dissatisfying, like in the marvelous “Lifeguard” where a canine guitar solo slurs into a glacial funeral march; 4) or, like, less obviously, when “Vanya’s” chorus leaves only the sweet palm frond beat and clipped bass gurgle, and then even that drops for a little kid saying something little; 5) Bupkes can be huge without much clutter, serious with a cheesy casio break and half-hearted dub repeat, determined to hold together, breed portent.

Oh, but: 6) it can run together. Not a very constructive complaint, pap levied at most DIY soldiers, but Cody’s problem is that the fuzz overlaying “Cassette” or the brevity of “Comet” point to broader difficulties in developing fantastic ideas. A melody, a sugary noise, a ravishing image, these are given space but often pulled away too quickly. We don’t need wandering. We just want legs, the bones, of dinosaur eggs. Something to crack through the shell of the musty bedroom headquarters, draw an inspired artist away from the encouraging friend who encourages the inspired artist to put inspired snippets to tape.

Rhombus is doing just that. The new album, his new songs (find and download “target,” it’s clearer, less shambling, mighty good), and a proper band of pals speak of some market-driven hype and a fat spider of a tour and the kind of great album that Bupkes dances around. So, here we present a debut. Can we get you riled up for more? Keep some channels open so the Rhombus can preach.

Winter, jabronies!