Like the tiny people in Werner Herzog’s film classic Even Dwarves Start Small, indie bands start small and mostly stay that way. Occasionally a band will break on through to the other side and earn a small amount of recognition, whether it’s deserved (see Metric – QRO live review) or not (see Tiny Masters of Today – QRO album review). With the release of their sophomore album Paint the Fence Invisible (QRO review), Drug Rug looks poised to split the difference and become more than just a blip on the radar. And last Saturday, August 8th, at the record-release party at the Middle East, Drug Rug kicked off their tour with all the effete guitar fury of sunshine love at their disposal.
But enough about the music. The first thing you notice about Drug Rug – live, recorded, or in their carefully crafted photo ops – is the infectious and irresistible adorability-factor of front-couple Sarah Cronin and Thomas Allen. The music press has run out of cute comparisons to make with this pair, but haven’t tired of repeating themselves just yet (Saturday night had more of a Sonny and Cher vibe, given Tom’s ‘stache and clutch of exposed chest hair). The two lovebirds have become known for finely-crafted harmonies reminiscent of the painstaking vocal arrangements of the Beach Boys, or The Mammas & The Pappas, and, aside from a few wobbly lyrics, lived up to their billing with the sweet, crowd pleasing, layered vocals on “Haunting You” and “Blue Moon”.
The main disappointment of the night was the shortage of love onstage. The “hunnybunny” wattage was decidedly absent Saturday night, as Thomas and Sarah mostly avoided eye contact with each other. Is the honeymoon over (in which case it is going to be a long tour)? Not that the fans were expecting the pair to copulate onstage, but first- or second-base would have been nice. Even Sonny (QRO Musicians as Politicians) faked a smile during “I Got You Babe”. Fortunately, the sunny retro 60’s arrangements came to the rescue, as did the charming schlubbiness of the stagehands Drug Rug hired to back them.
With such a faceless backing band hiding in the rear while Tom and Sarah preen in the spotlight, Drug Rug comes off as a bit of a dog-and-pony show (with you-know-who taking the blue ribbons every night). But making a name for yourself is hard and Drug Rug knows where its bread is buttered. It took Michael Jackson a couple of decades to transform himself into a richly-entertaining caricature of himself, but media-savvy Drug Rug has accomplished the same feat in a couple of years. The redeeming factor is, of course, the music – it’s the spoonful of sugar that helps the marketing go down (well worth the price of admission). The critics love it; the fans love it. Let’s hope it stays that way; otherwise we might be looking at a “leaked” sex-tape scenario to drum up interest. And if there is anything that the Meg White (of The White Stripes – QRO live review) incident has taught us, it’s that indie rockers look much better with their clothes on.