Album Review: Pictures in the Sand by Elderly Smackdown & Randy Rulz

Two lo-fi projects from OKC & Norman's underground DIY scenes split a wonderfully weird new EP of off-kilter ditties

Elderly Smackdown and Randy Rulz are not familiar to most, and they probably like it that way. The two projects aren’t just rough around the edges. They are low fidelity to the core. Bound to appeal most to punk and experimental types, their music hangs on emaciated arrangements and dry performances. It’s an appropriate treatment for the songwriting that accompanies, bringing out its emotionally direct yet socially distant themes of life, love, and disappointment.

The two projects share several common creative traits, but they also complement each other well in their differences. Where acoustic duo Elderly Smackdown approaches lo-fi music from a punk/emo angle, Randy Rulz is a solo act rooted in fuzzy psych. Somehow, they meet in the middle at something grotesquely resembling alternative folk music.

Pictures in the Sand is a match made in purgatory. The four-track EP, which releases this Valentine’s Day and is available for pre-order, is a brief collection of ironically upbeat tunes that thinly veil the mixed emotions beneath.

Elderly Smackdown from Norman, OK

Elderly Smackdown accomplishes this with chipper hand claps, kazoos, and whistles. Though the two songs here are held down by acoustic guitar, they practically parody the ukulele song stereotypes that pervade faux-happy TV advertisements. The only piece missing is a bright glockenspiel, but that might push the act too far outside of its stripped-down style. These songs rejoice in the death of an unnamed entity (“Why Yes, I Am Bitter”) and feel out the inner walls of pessimism (“Burn It Down”). Too much irony might distract from the nice songwriting here, especially in the latter cut.

Randy Rulz, on the other hand, plays down the pep in favor of a hazy blend of distortion and scuff-marked vocals. “Silver Bullet” is quite campy with its werewolf-tinged themes of romantic starvation. “Blessed Cursed” is the only song in the EP to bring in a drum machine, so it might be surprising to find that it’s also the least straight-laced track of the bunch. Of course, it’s on purpose, with dissonant rumbles of low-end guitar and slurred vocals making for the perfect drunken stupor, strung along by an overly simple beat that plays the irony card again but with less enthusiasm.

Randy Rulz from OKC, OK

Plenty of bands can make sloppy music, but it takes a specially seasoned artist to exude messiness without falling prey to it. It makes sense, then, that Elderly Smackdown and Randy Rulz are not newcomers, though they may be new to many still. Elderly Smackdown is headed by S. Reidy, an otherwise solo rapper who recently charted on Oklahoma Gazette’s 2019 best albums of the year list. Randy Rulz has been making music for years under the pseudonym as well as with other projects like Heyer Lusk and a noise metal outfit that may or may not have been prominently featured on The Needle Drop.

While Pictures in the Sand might be a somewhat off-the-cuff release for the two acts, it’s precisely that freedom from pressure and scrutiny that breathes levity into its often dour sources of inspiration. If the “We Like the Moon” spongmonkeys went legit, it might sound something like this.

 

Pictures in the Sand drops this Friday, February 10th and is available for pre-order at the Bandcamp link embedded below.

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