Review Summary: Through one ear, out the other.
Lo La Ru, unfortunately, feels incredibly middle of the road. The Rubens, after the massive year following their Hottest 100 triumph in ‘Hoops’, have decided to mostly ditch the rock roots of their previous outing, and instead take aim at the recently over-saturated market that is lo-fi indie. It feels like a recipe you’ve followed too many times to forget; it becomes routine, and the excitement you once had for learning something new has become mundane and boring, and Lo La Ru fits the bill. And although vocalist Sam Margin tries his best with an inspired vocal performance, the quintet disappoints with boring instrumentals, predictable song structures and some genuinely painful lyricism.
As stated before, it is not all bad. Sam sounds as invigorated and soulful as he ever has, belting out some fantastic notes on tracks like opener ‘Million Man’ that showcase his range excellently. Because of his performance, it breathes some life into an album devoid of it. Tracks like ‘I Know’ and ‘Freakout’ would lack anything attention-grabbing without his impassioned delivery. However, his performance doesn’t stop the album lacking the character their previous work had. With a track like the aforementioned ‘Hoops’, there was a certain swagger to it; a defined character within a short two-and-a-half-minute timespan. On Lo La Ru, the character isn’t there. The lo-fi aesthetics trickle through one ear and out the other, lacking anything to differentiate themselves from the ever-massive genre.
A track like ‘Woman Oh Woman’ feels too overbearing without achieving anything noteworthy, trying to sound soulful but lacking the instrumentation to back it up. All tracks lack this, and coupled with uninspired lyricism; whether it be the slow, unenthusiastic ‘Mary’; “to the movies we are glued/this time I’mma let you choose/Choose the movies and the food/But we ain’t right yet don’t be fooled” or the piano-led bore that is ‘Never Ever’; “I like you better from afar/I think we’re better off apart” The Rubens fail the capture the spark they once had, resulting in an album that lacks the colourful backgrounds of lo-fi indie or the sun-filled aesthetics of pop rock.
It’s a shame, too; there are moments on the album where The Rubens step out of their comfort zone and implement some surprises (see the horns in ‘God Forgot’), but these moments are few and far between. As a result, Lo La Ru struggles as a step forward in the bands’ career, leaving them stuck in the mundane recipe so many others have become all too familiar with. The rock roots take flight, the indie-pop vibes take hold, and the listener turns off.