Ra Ra Ruby – “Dancing With Mannequins” EP
If the industry axiom that sex sells is to be believed, then Ra Ra Ruby should be on the fast track to success. Their just-released four-track EP, “Dancing with Mannequins,” announces itself, to start, with a nude woman, in tears, staring at the cover photographer, long black hair covering her breasts. Somehow, this cover is the least explicit aspect of the EP.
Hailing from Pottsville Beach in New South Wales, the trio packs an array of influences and gestures into this short release. Some of it sticks, some feels under or overcooked, or hopelessly generic, and while this certainly isn’t music that fills a void, it scratches a well-established post-punk-pop itch. Fans of Bloc Party and The Strokes will probably find something to like here.
The EP’s high point is its opening track “Her,” filled with strobing guitars and icy riffs. It’s tense, more British than Aussie, with emotive vocals and imagery reminiscent of The Killers. “Black shoes, red wine, hair bleached,” singer Kurt Skuse chants through the pounding chorus. A night out winds back to a night in, as the song’s narrator and an unnamed friend “stay up all night by your lamplight.” Skuse can’t resist a tough kiss-off, but the line “Darling you mean nothing to me” comes across more gestural than felt in the midst of the song’s throbbing, punchy, emotional electricity.
It’s also true that the implicit is usually a lot sexier than the explicit, which is why track two, “Undress,” is the EP’s low point. Scattered with fleetingly interesting riffs and ideas, but about two minutes too long overall, “Undress” is nominally lover’s music; with its pounding power chords and lines like, “I rub my hand down your leg,” and “I can feel it in your bones,” which really seem more uninspired than unrestrained, the song sounds a lot more like jerk-off music.
“I Need a Woman” is a mellower, more mournful song that’s still full of energy. Guitar chords bleed and fade, as if mimicking the fading affections for a loved one. Closer “Pam” has a pepped-up ska framework, and sounds as much cribbed from The Strokes’ classic “Last Night” as from that ever-present shopping-mall ukulele song about somebody’s “Soul Sister.”
“Her” and “Pam” are the EP’s most distinctive songs. Each suggests a direction in which the band could go—with “Pam” being the more marketable, sentimental, ubiquitous, and potentially profitable side of things, and “Her” offering a more aggressive, wounded take on romance that will go well on any post-punk playlist.
It’s not bad for a debut EP, but it’s nothing special either, and it’s unfortunately short on ideas that lift it above, or even to the level of, its influences.
Words by Ian Sandquist