This is rhubarb.
I was looking for something sweet-and-sour (or sweet-and-bitter) as appropriate accompaniment of a long-pending review of indie hard rock band Spence. A couple weeks ago, I’d played the band’s EP, been reminded in a vague way of David Cook’s 2006 indie release Analog Heart, and then gotten distracted. My attention was refocused when Cook himself was seen hanging with Spence vocalist Daniel at a
Silver Steel Panthers show. (Gotta get both the metal and the mettle of our large felines correct.)
Let’s queue up Spence on MySpace Music. (Oh, be a good person and buy Everything You Never Wanted already. It’s under $4. That’s less than a strawberry-rhubarb frappuccino.)
My plan was to make a rhubarb dump cake (fruit with liquid on the bottom, cake dry ingredients on top, butter, seal, simmer, forms its own cobbler) from scratch. The short version is that this was not among the best-laid plans and it went far, far astray. It seems that the magic of dump cake depends on using prefab portions of processed foods, which means that gooey goodness will probably cause your children to grow three heads. Done from scratch, the result is delicious-smelling gunk with the texture of wet socks. I might dab it behind my ears to make myself alluring. No way am I eating it.
Instead, I shall make peach-mango dulce de leche. This is done by pouring a can of sweetened, condensed milk into a pan, adding a glug of peach-mango juice, setting the flame to the lowest possible heat, and thinking happy, happy thoughts while licking stray drips of milk from the can.
You will need the happy, happy thoughts, as Spence specializes in angst. It is so angsty that the sound is not measured in decibels but in ångströms.
Vocalist Daniel, guitarist Mario, bass player Christian, and drummer Mike are hard rock enough to be trying to win a 3-song EP with Slash, although if they’re metal (as the roar to Daniel’s vocals suggests), they’re at the more melodic end of the spectrum, say, somewhere around niobium.
I paused to pull up Cook’s “Searchlights” to try to identify what I’m hearing as a similarity. While I think his later work is musically superior, it remains my favorite song from what I still consider a good album. I’ve always thought anyone who could write that would be interesting to talk with… which, considering it’s one of the most dysfunctional love songs in the history of the genre, says something about my tastes. And Spence has some of that “interestingly dysfunctional” quality, in which many of the lyrics toy with what’s truth and what’s a lie, what’s attraction and what should be run from, and what to do when pain isn’t enough to keep you away.
And I’m a sucker for slightly off rhymes. Hit me with “December,” “surrender,” and “together” in the same stanza, put a sturdy guitar riff under it, and you have my full attention for the next three minutes. There’s also a pleasing complexity to the guitar-bass-percussion interaction, in which what seems to be a wall of strings and cymbals dissolves into distinct interlocking threads of harmony.
The photo? The juice didn’t quite incorporate, so some of the caramelized bits are more caramelized than others. One might almost call them “burnt.” The burnt parts taste wonderful. Having scooped most of the dulce de leche into bowls to chill, I was scraping tastes off the pan and seriously considered carrying the pan into the living room to lick it. Fortunately, I remembered in time that it was hot. (Also hot: men who say, “But hon, the burnt parts are what make it taste good.” Never forget–eating my cooking is a test of manhood, comparable to hot-wiring a car but stopping well short of blowing up a building.)
Look! More plain yogurt! This has had some rum added because I can. I have vague notions about a creamy topping to the caramel dessert.
I am mightily distracted by the pretty and relaxed instrumentation that opens “The Plead” before the song builds to an Evanescence-like intensity. This one also demonstrates that Daniel can sound melodic as well as doing the rocker roar (and rhymes “jaded” and “frustrated”).
The dulce de leche turned out to have achieved the texture and intensity of caramel. This is how the project somehow became Peach-Mango Dulce de Leche in a Cloud. Note that sprightly mint leafs. I have learned how to garnish.
It is impossible to eat this without being wooed by the sugar high into a less angsty mood. (The lush, fruity sugar overload is such that I may be the first person to get a dessert on the federal controlled substances list without brownies being involved.) Since “The Plead” gave us an angsty “take my hand” lyric, let’s close with a more upbeat, but similarly heavy rocking one (with intense and complex instrumentation) from Cook’s Morongo concert in February. I was there, three rows back, and it was a truly fabulous moment, reminding me why live music is worth the price of admission.