Labels are endlessly fascinating, and often terribly misleading, when it comes to the world of music. Think about how the White Stripes were slapped with “garage rock” when they first exploded out of the American underground in 2001, even though that didn’t begin to describe “Hotel Yorba” or “We’re Going to be Friends”.
If ever-reliable Wikipedia is to be believed, System of a Down can be filed under (take your pick) alternative metal, nu metal, or heavy metal at the record store. That none of those tags do the tiniest bit of justice to “Arials” or “Cigaro” seems to matter to no one.
When the publicist for Lotusland-spawned Rare Americans reached out to the Georgia Straight for the new single “Brittle Bones Nicky 2”, the email described the band as “genre-defying Vancouver punks”.
It’s hard to argue with the latter half of that assessment. The group is from Vancouver, and, at this point, punk can be anything from NOFX to Blink-182 to the Dayglo Abortions to Scrotumgrinder.
Still, genre-defying somehow seems more accurate, as does the Rare Americans description of themselves on their website: “Crooked & Catchy”. (The band was founded by brothers Jared and James Priestner, with guitarist Lubo Ivan, guitarist Jan Cajka, and drummer Ritz helping execute the songs in studio and, presumably live, if that one day becomes a thing again.)
“Brittle Bones Nicky 2”, which will be included on the March 5 sophomore album Rare Americans 2, is the latest animated video from the proudly DIY Vancouver unit. And by latest, that’s a heads up that Rare Americans release videos the way John Ford used to make movies, which is to say seemingly non-stop. (The past year has produced an animated cavalcade that’s included “Hullabaloo”, “Ryan & Dave”, “The Moneyz”, “Gas Mask”, and “Brittle Bones Nicky”).
Visually “Brittle Bones Nicky 2” gives us a brilliant idea what purgatory will be looking like if Jack Skellington, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Pendleton Ward, and Devin Clark have any say in things. Strap yourself into the roller coaster after the lights of life go out and then hang the fuck on because things are going to get mindbendingly weird.
There’s a great meta-moment at the 3:13 mark of “Brittle Bones Nicky 2”, when Rare Americans singer James Priestner uses the vessel known as BBN to tell God “I’m crafty and tricky/Millions of people dig me.” That’s no idle boast—since debuting a couple of weeks ago, the video has clocked a world-beating 3.7 million views on YouTube. Yes, you read that correctly.
And where do Rare Americans slot in on the music side of things here? Start with a mix of stupidly infectious percolating ska, carnivalesque gypsy folk, backpack hip-hop, and, yes, strands of Hot Topic punk (the emo strain if you’re curious).
Of course, you might argue that such a label doesn’t make any more sense than calling the Refused a hardcore band. And here’s the thing—you wouldn’t be wrong.