Not to dwell on the obvious, but Drug Rug is a particularly fitting name given the playful psychedelic touches and overall expulsive charms of the band’s second full-length, Paint the Fence Invisible. It evokes that distinctly childlike sensation of spreading not some but all of the toys across the floor and creating a domain where Lego people or Matchbook cars can come to life. Only in this case the toys are drugs. That the name is actually slang for those thickly woven ponchos kids in high school sometimes wore seems secondary, but should be noted in terms of the illicit objects those kids sometimes carried in the big pocket on the front.
In their debauched playroom fantasy, the band taps into a straightforward but often clever stream of pop songwriting. While primary members Thomas Allen and Sarah Cronin hail from Boston, they appear more in touch with the spirit of Athens, Georgia, and the sunny side of Elephant 6. The tidier tracks on Paint the Fence Invisible recall the Apples in Stereo, especially lead single “Never Tell,” which encroaches on the Apples’ earlier territory in both lo- to mid-fi production value and nasal vocal delivery.
The production issue is particularly relevant here, as the band fixates on certain retro elements, but at times seems just as excited by oddball choices and the freedom provided by home recording. There is not so much a debt to any particular time, place, or sound as there is an overall acknowledgement of diverse influences. Allen and Cronin love the Beach Boys, this much is clear, but it is doubtful that they would even expect Brian Wilson’s approval. Their music is too precious and too self-contained, not to mentioned dappled with irreverent electronic textures.
Album highlight “Don’t Be Frightened by the Devil” makes good use of heavily reverbed, Pet Sounds-esque percussion, vocal harmonies, and an outro jam that grooves it out sans lead instrumentation. The song breaks up the album rather appropriately, creating space between the rollicking pop of the first half, and the headier escapades of the second. The title track, sequenced last showcases Cronin’s fragile and undeniably cute voice, laid bare above a casual guitar arpeggio.
Paint the Fence Invisible couples sparseness and creative vibrancy, with every untreated strum and vocal crack complimented by a subtle twist in the expected arrangement. And while Drug Rug may never break out of their quirk-rock niche, at least they seem comfortable.