If a picture paints a thousand words, the cover to this compact disc must surely be worth a few lines at least. It depicts a young naked lady in repose, eyes closed and a beatific smile on her face. Beside her lies a man, fully clothed, serenely looking out into the middle distance as he idly plays a flute. It is a mildly erotic scene, conveying vivid colour and contrast, something that the band’s name and record’s title reinforces. Strumpets and Rubies & Ruffians. The former is a quartet from Antwerp in Belgium headed by an Argentinian called Miguel Horacio Sosa. Coming three years after their début release, the latter is their second album.
But you should never judge a book, or in this case an album by its cover. Far from it being the bossa-styled soundtrack to some low-budget, soft porn French flic from the ‘60s that the picture may suggest, the music therein is far more sensual than sexual and its cultural reach that much greater. Sure, it does start with ‘Tamara’ and what is a breezy stroll through that youthful pop-facsimile of the late 1960s once favoured by The 5th Dimension, but those soaring, seamless harmonies soon seep into the following decade, adulthood and a post-Beatles/Beach Boys vocal fusion.
And so it goes. As the album gathers momentum it collects many periods and styles, shifting from the early Sparklehorse drenched guitar and voice of ‘Hollow Dusty Hall’, back through the potential Abbey Road out-take of ‘Alas Descartes’ and onto the more pastoral swell of the title track, it somehow manages to wear its myriad of influences on its sleeve without them appearing to be entirely obtrusive. ‘Centurial Jinx’ owes a further debt to Messrs Wilson, Love and Jardine and while the beautifully understated slide on ‘In a Pallor Dream’ would not have been entirely out of place on All Things Must Pass the ensuing ‘Mad In Ivory’ fast forwards a quarter of a century to raid the tonal quality of The Stone Roses’ guitar locker.
Though Rubies & Rust’s amatory album cover may be particularly misleading there is an undoubted promiscuity about Strumpets’ musical behaviour. They wantonly pillage the past, paying particular heed to anyone who might purvey pop, the psychedelic or wear flowers in their hair. But that they can do this with honesty, dignity and respect and can then successfully transpose it into the here and now says much for this record’s integrity and true intent.
Released on CD and download via Jezus Factory Records and distributed by Rough Trade in Europe and Shellshock in the UK on 2nd September 2013