Lebanon – Planet Rubble

Planet Rubble

Most likely, the first aspect of Lebanon’s second album and US debut, Planet Rubble, which will capture listeners’ curiosity will be the band’s choice of name: a primarily instrumental math rock quartet from Tel Aviv, Israel, which calls itself Lebanon. Hmm. Now scratch your head some more, given that Lebanese terrorists supported by the Lebanese government initiated a bloody war between Lebanon and Israel in July 2006, almost exactly one year before Planet Rubble was released. Putting politics and (the band) Lebanon’s name selection aside, let’s move on to the music. With Planet Rubble, these four guys present a 10-track album that often pumps the blood and spellbinds with mysterious guitar journeys.

A native of another central Israeli city on the coast (Rishon Le’Zion) and a lover of Israeli music across styles, I don’t give my country mates a pass just to promote them beyond our little motherland, so I’m comfortable acknowledging Lebanon’s many strengths as well as its few missteps on Planet Rubble. The record’s opening salvo of “Finland,” “Buried in the Avenue,” and “The Dying Dying Man” is a revelation, with some sections deservedly described as Hitchcockian genius. “Finland” enters with suspenseful, dark marine images and soon shifts to a louder display of guitar prowess. The album’s longest track at just over nine minutes, “The Dying Dying Man” is an intoxicating emotional drop across dimensions.

Strongly recalling the guitar sound of Explosions in the Sky, the melancholic “Text Adventure (No Mor)” is short and evocative. On a frequently excellent collection of tracks, “We Never Sleep” stands out for its concluding tenderness and celestial ambiance, thanks to the gorgeous combination of shimmering percussion and subtle guitars. The wisdom and emphatic clarity of the aforementioned tracks notwithstanding, Planet Rubble does have some dull moments. “Megalith” is more sound check than composition, and “Poltergeist” drowns in its anger.

The album’s final track, “Peterpanman,” highlights Lebanon’s ability to change tempo and mood suddenly, manically, but the track’s frenzied ending points to the band’s occasional lapse into plodding stretches of guitar without a clear aim. In spite of its weaknesses, and precisely because they are so few, Planet Rubble is a rewarding listen and notably more memorable than many other recordings of its genre.