All My Shades of Blue

Ruen Brothers

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All My Shades of Blue Review

by Matt Collar

If your only reference for what the Ruen Brothers were about was their twangy, Roy Orbison-esque 2013 singles "Aces" and the broodingly detached, '50s-style cover photo on 2018's All My Shades of Blue, you might assume they were rock & roll purists -- throwback poster boys for all things tube-amp warm and pomade-rich. However, one listen to the Rick Rubin-produced album and it quickly becomes clear that, despite the duo's obvious knack for mid-century pulp posturing, that assumption is only half-correct. Emerging from the Northern England steel town of Scunthorpe, lead singer/rhythm guitarist Henry Stansall and singer/lead guitarist Rupert Stansall (their first names cheekily amalgamated as the Ruen Brothers) strike a much more complicated and stylistically varied pose. Largely recorded live with a full-band, and drenched at times by Rubin in a noir-ish amount of reverb, All My Shades of Blue is a thrilling modern pop record. A big part of the Ruen Brothers' charm is lead singer Henry Stansall's robust baritone delivery. Pitched halfway between Chris Isaak's laid-back warmth and Scott Walker's arch, cabaret fatalism, and struck through with a hearty dose of young Johnny Cash's wild-eyed, amphetamine-laced intensity, he often sounds like a David Lynch parody of a '50s singer. It's a magnetically theatrical combination that would feel a little too conceptual and character-driven, were it not for the brothers' deep grasp of the musical traditions they are drawing upon. Tracks like the raucous "Walk Like a Man" and the swoony, gem perfect Everly Brothers-style ballad "Make the World Go Away" evince the tactile aesthetics of the classic Sun Studio sound while also being astutely well-written songs. Similarly, cuts like the cinemascope-level anthem "Summer Sun" and the jangly, gorgeously moody title track are rooted in just enough organic, echo chamber twang and doomed teen crooner melodies to make them feel genuinely vintage, but never predictable. Elsewhere, the brothers reveal their more contemporary influences, drawing upon the dance-rock swagger of band's like the Strokes and the Killers on "Finer Things," and "An Evening of Dreaming." In fact, when Henry Stansall's granite yawp soars nasally toward the heavens as it does on "Vendetta," he sounds a lot like Killers-frontman Brandon Flowers, another singer who balances Las Vegas-level pop hooks with a love of rootsy, neon-tinged Americana. Ultimately, the Ruen Brothers strike an equally vibrant balance on All My Shades of Blue, coloring their old-school rock & roll hooks with a postmodernist eye for savvy recontextualization.

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