Dark and dancey is the m.o. for the Rosebuds' new Night of the Furies. There was always a nagging melancholy, if not darkness, to the breathy garage pop that inhabited the band's first two albums, but the dancey thing is new. It fits like a glove, surprisingly. North Carolina couple Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp maintain their chirpy cuteness amid '80s-indebted drum programming and sparkling swaths of synth, which is saying a lot when you consider that most of the songs are set in cemetery lawns, lakes and other foreboding locales.
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It's a concept album, actually, about the fabled Furies descending upon the Earth with ready wrath. Thing is, one of them falls in love with the very human chosen to tell the cautionary tale of their visit. The feeling soon becomes mutual, and so the man sings his piece until the day he might die and be reunited with his unlikely beloved. In the Rosebuds' hands, the premise becomes more Brothers Grimm than Greco-Roman mythology—all biting winters, looming trees and rotten fruit.
The Stockholm-set "Silja Line" even conjures pirates and Vikings, fittingly recruiting Sweden's the Shout Out Louds (who recently became the Rosebuds' labelmates on Merge) for a chilling chorus. Elsewhere, Howard and Crisp, who share singing duties, enlist friends on drums, guitars, standup bass and handclaps. There are shades of Human League and New Order throughout, and "When the Lights Went Dim" isn't a far cry from the Knife, with its spooky techno underpinnings and Crisp's downcast delivery.
Not every band could pull off a midcareer makeover as smoothly as the Rosebuds have. It helps that the band's core has always been Howard and Crisp, guiding the project from muse to muse. So it's no surprise that their contagious, time-defying songwriting is still the secret weapon beneath this startling new incarnation.
The Rosebuds, Land of Talk, and Phoenix & the Turtle at the Glass House, 200 W Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us . Fri., 7 p.m. $10-$12.