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Surrender (Rose Avenue/Warner)

THERE'S A DAY COMING when we will listen to albums without the prism of Covid and lockdown, and the attendant social/personal/political upheavals. When the vagaries of optimism and pessimism, or the pleasures and pitfalls of a need to connect, the search for messaging and meaning, or an unformed but growing need to escape as reaction, won’t be underpinning our expectations as much as any artistic intentions.

Today is not that day.

Listen to the new album from Rufus (insert umlauts wherever you wish) Du Sol, and it is as if 18 months of wishes and regrets have seeped into the pores of every track. Neither exultant nor crushed, but definitely not untouched, Surrender is a record with an appropriately ambiguous title which allows for interpretation and exploration.

Surrender here could mean – in just one song, Make It Happen – give into the regrets (“where were you when I was young?”) and the notion that a moment has passed (“I could have loved you then”), or maybe accepting that what is now is still worth having without recourse to any what-ifs (“Flying back where I belong/On Sunday/Back into your arms”). After all, “if you believe that “Love can change your life/Love can make it happen”, does the rest of it matter? So why not surrender?

In typically dancefloor-adjacent rather than dancefloor-demanding tempos, done with their signature liquid synths where others choose an assertive rhythm section, the bittersweetness of distance and absence is a frequent visitor in the early stages of this album.

In See You Again we hear “I will find my way closer to you/But a lot just changed”, as a promise and may be a sign of uncertainty. In I Don’t Wanna Leave (the interior beats mid-breakup to See You Again’s holding on) there is a plea to “stay with me for one more night”, not as an attempt to change a mind necessarily but more to defer that final emptiness.

If we’ve learned anything in the past two years it is that when everything else that normally offers entertainment or distraction, all that busyness and movement we construct, is stripped away, every part of us and our relationships must face intense scrutiny. By the time we arrive at Alive, (the post-breakup, where “There is a pain in my chest that I can’t describe/I close my eyes but the day’s the same”) the declaration that “At least I’m alive” feels stripped of any vestiges of satisfaction.

Just getting to here is enough, right? Nope. Certainly not as On My Knees, a song of abandonment and repetition, pushes itself into a very Underworld semi-trance that begins to crumble even before Wildfire repositions Radiohead’s Everything In Its Right Place into another scene of acute discomfort and a plea to “Come home/Want you to hold me/Come home”.

Even as the mood and the tempo take a modest upswing in the final three songs, beginning with the title track where nature imitates/predicts life (and Curtis Harding offers altar-shaking guest gospel vocals), the natural tendency of Rufus Du Sol songs to operate in that territory between cruise and pulse, works like modest post-lockdown restrictions: tempering any temptation to exploit freedoms.

As it says in the final track, Always, “It’s time to face the world/To step outside the shade”. Does this mean everything is fixed? Would you believe anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, saying “Faith, trust that I will stay/I’ll always be there”?

Maybe the question isn’t would you believe; maybe, to go back to the first song on the album, the question for any of us – all of us? – who have come this far, so far, is actually what you need to believe? “And when the lights come down/I wanna feel you standing next to me.”


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