The Rooftop Gambler - Turned Out the Light [10 inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Rooftop Gambler

Turned Out the Light [10 inch] (2010)


Everything about Rooftop Gambler's Turned Out the Light is designed to give a whimsical feeling of drifting off to sleep--from the band and album names, to the artwork, to the music contained within. From that standpoint it is hard to argue that this isn't one successful record.

The accompanying press describes the band's sound as "Firehose recorded by Steve Albini," and there is certainly that band's thoughtful exploration of melody, although I'm not quite sure the recording translates into that raw live energy Albini is known to bring out of bands. There is a definite musical kinship to slowcore bands of the '90s--like Bedhead--to be found in the hypnotic, repetitious progression of "Old Town Stories," as well as folky touches of Ida and Neil Young. Somehow, Rooftop Gambler maintains the sense of wonder those artists can encapsulate but as the last minute or so of "Leaning Tree" demonstrates they are able to keep things surprisingly upbeat.

Guitarist/vocalist Neil Ewart is the clear focal point of the record; his smooth baritone isn't the most impressive range-wise but it is perfect for the clean, dream-like instrumentals that support him. Ewart acts more like a seasoned storyteller whose slight changes in intonation animate and captivate the listener. That isn't to say Rooftop Gambler's rhythm section isn't important, because like any worthwhile post-punk band, Karl Meyer and Ben Russell's extremely tight backbeat is often the most striking part of the instrumental portion of the record, making unexpected tempo shifts while keeping a steady groove throughout.

Turned Out the Light fulfills most of the promise of magic that Clare Owen's artwork suggests. They defy the concept that music made for shuteye is somehow boring or background music. The songs are dynamic and short enough to draw you in but long enough to never let those restful feelings they imbue overpower a listening experience that forces attentiveness. It will be interesting to see if the Gambler can sustain this over the course of a full-length. Check this out if you want a really good slice of post-punk that won't demand too much of your time--aside from repeated plays of course.