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Loud Planes Fly Low

by: The Rosebuds

Album Artwork

(Merge Records)

The Rosebuds began in the most romantic of ways.  Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp formed the band the same week they got married.  They met in college in Wilmington, NC and then settled in Raleigh becoming mainstays in that music scene.  Their first album The Rosebuds Make Out was a sunny album capturing much of the romantic whimsy that the title would imply.

The records that followed their debut showed some darker undertones.  The Night Of The Furies was gothic dance record that recalled 80s groups like New Order.  Considering the change in attitude from their debut, it should have been obvious that something deeper was going on.

That deeper something was their crumbling marriage which finally fell apart after 2008's Life Like.  Crisp moved to Brooklyn while Howard stayed in NC.  Loud Planes Fly Low became the product of this difficult divorce as both Howard and Crisp decided to forge on as bandmates even though their marriage was no longer.

In examining records that chronicle breakups, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours can't help but come to mind.  That album was recorded after Fleetwood Mac had just released their most successful album to date.  The success of that album, in part, caused the break up of both of the long term relationships within the band as the romantic pairings of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks as well as John and Christine McVie both dissolved.  Rumours contained songs from Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie that all dealt with their breakups.  It remains a powerful album and one that ended up becoming an all time best seller.

Although it might seem cliche to compare Loud Planes Fly Low to Rumours, it is thoroughly appropriate as well.  About the only thing as powerful a muse as finding love is losing it and trying to deal with the aftermath.  When that lost love is shared between bandmates, examining that loss together cannot help but provide a powerful listening experience.

The Fleetwood Mac references for Loud Planes Fly Low doesn't stop with Rumours.  Since the Rosebuds have always had a fairly healthy musical connection to the 80s, their latest sounds a great deal like Fleetwood Mac's 80s music.  Lindsey Buckingham remains one of pop music's most brilliant craftsmen and Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp share many of his sensibilities.

The entire experience of Loud Planes Fly Low is extremely moving.  You can hear the emotion in each song as Howard and Crisp look to find common ground while also protecting emotional wounds that are still raw.  There is a muted quality to the record, but that only serves to show how much they both still care for one another.  As strange as this may sound, Loud Planes Fly Low is like a love letter to their marriage even though it is over.  It seems as though both Howard and Crisp want to remember it fondly and be respectful of each other even though it is over.

"Go Ahead" and "Limitless Arms" begin the album in soothing fashion before "Second Bird Of Paradise" reveals a sense of darkness.  Crisp takes her only lead vocal on "Come Visit Me" which captures the pain of trying to fill the emotional void left when a long term relationship ends.  For all the complex pop structures on the album, they aren't afraid to strip things bare as they do on "Without A Focus" and "Worthwhile" which serve as an anchor, grounding things in reality.

All of the care and caution on the album allow "Woods" - the album's most emotionally raw song - to provide its full effect.  The song uses the idea of an out of control forest fire as a metaphor for a broke relationship and its aftermath.  It's appropriate considering a fire's destructive force and its black and charred remains.  As Howard screams "Oh, good God," one can feel his naked pain.

Reports from the recording sessions told of painstaking and often difficult process.  Each song on the album reflects this sense of great care.  Southern pop legend Chris Stamey had a hand in production which was a wise choice.  His perspective and experience must have helped the band tremendously.

Great loss will often lead to anger and sadness, but at some point there must be reflection and understanding.  By coming together to look back on the marriage they lost, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp have taken a harder path, but also a rewarding one for their listeners.  It's not easy to see what the future holds for the Rosebuds beyond Loud Planes Fly Low, but this album provides them with true closure, something that often seems more a concept than a reality for anyone who has tried to find it.

- Jim Markel

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