Rumah Sakit Obscured by Clowns

[Temporary Residence; 2002]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: Post Rock, Math Rock, Instrumental Rock
Others: Don Cabellero, Sonic Youth, Tortoise

Do you ever find yourself becoming addicted to VH1’s Behind the Music?  I’ve been known to spend a few Sundays sprawled out on the couch just to catch an episode or two, myself.  Hell, I’d probably even take an entire day just to watch a marathon.  One of the episodes I recently saw was on “hair bands” of the late eighties and early nineties.  On this particular episode, Jani Lane of Warrant was discussing how he knew bands like his were history because of the new posters that were adorning their executive’s walls.  Let’s just say they weren’t Warrant’s posters anymore.  A new band called Nirvana had replaced them and taken over the world in the blink of an eye.  In retrospect, this is probably one of the only good decisions the record industry has made in the past twenty years.  Pop metal had gone just about every route it could have possibly gone.  The same, unfortunately, could be said for math rock today.  It’s been done so many times that it’s finally starting to lose its edge and artistic individuality.   

Obscured by Clowns, the sophomore release by Rumah Sakit, can further support this theory.  Upon first listen, I found myself feeling like I’d listened to every math rock album I’d ever purchased.  Sprawling instrumental songs with clever titles are the foundation of what we’ve come to expect from artists like Rumah Sakit.  A couple of the song titles, including the title track, even pay homage to Pink Floyd album titles.  There’s no trace of Pink Floyd on any of these songs, however.  Obvious similarities would be Don Caballero and Sonic Youth.  I wish I could say that Rumah Sakit is as good as either of these bands, but this is simply not the case. 

The first track, “Hello Beginning, This is my Friend,” summarizes what you’ll be hearing for the next 45 minutes.  All the songs seem to blend together making it almost impossible to review any song on an individual basis.  However, there are certain elements of Obscured by Clowns that remain very strong.  For one, the drumming is impeccable.  You could say Jeff Shannon is busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.  The emotion is also undeniably present, but I feel as though I’ve been forced to be upset by the tone of the album.  I don’t feel, however, like I’ve been forced to listen to these wonderful gentlemen perform.  They appear to have been playing together for quite some time, which is evident in their crispness and quality of playing.  It’s as if they know exactly what the other will be doing at any given point.

So then why are there so many negative things to be said?  Well, again, there’s just nothing new and exciting about this album.  There are moments of greatness, and moments where I find myself amazed at certain aspects of the album, but for the most part, it just seems to lose my interest.  They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but seeing as how I really liked the cover for Obscured by Clowns, I couldn’t help but want to know what was inside.  What I’m left with is an album that will probably get little playtime in my collection, and an album cover that I’d like to hang on my wall.          

1. Hello Beginning, This Is My Friend...the...
2. New Underwear Dance
3. No One Likes a Grumpy Cripple
4. German Clock
5. Obscured by Clowns
6. Are We Not Serious? We Are Rumah Sakit
7. Sausage Full of Secrets
8. Go Horsey
9. Hello Friend, This Is My End...