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Following up on their stunning BBiB Records debut (“Run Slow”), Prince Rupert’s Drops reflect, refract and reemerge in the form of “Climbing Light,” their dark and brilliant second full-length album; forty-two minutes featuring eight songs of frighteningly unforgettable form. If the album’s title immediately brings to mind mainly the sweetness of the light, only progress in the climb, be forewarned. “Climbing Light” arrives as the band rings in their first full decade of existence – plenty of time for these songs to take in and breathe out the endless shades of light, the blinding white and the choking greys. The alchemy of Prince Rupert’s Drops is in the endlessly-fascinating way they dissolve the two into one, often more than once within the span of a single and singularly strange song.
The view that the light of “Climbing Light” isn’t all sunshine and finger-snaps is immediately clear, from the album’s beginning “Death March,” where a Mod-ified glam-rock swagger meets a Gregorian chant masquerading as power-pop and decides to lay its body down. The dread continues through the “Doldrums” that follow. The song is anchored by a bassline so steady as to be paranoid, sounding the alarm of the world-weary – “don’t get swept aside, never to be seen again.” This being Prince Rupert’s Drops, the echo of all life’s extermination is delivered under a shower of irresistible handclaps and sing-along chorus.
It’s a monumental, multi-hued musical death-trip that Prince Rupert’s Drops have delivered on “Climbing Light.” Even during the generous moments of beautiful, earth-worn balladry – such as the instant classic “Follow Me” – the vibe is cautious, at best, with regard to this climb into the band’s collective head, reminding us that we’re “a long, long way from home / where the wild beasts howl and roam.” And even during the album’s most B-movie bombastic beats – such as the instant classic “Dangerous Death Ray,” which recalls the tyranny and mutilation found in the heritage of Prince Rupert’s Drops New York home, as examined by cults of blue oysters or otherwise – there’s nothing to do except run for cover. And dance.