Can’t Stop, Animal Tropical drummer Jorge Rubiera’s new project, played their second show on Saturday night at Sweat Records to celebrate the release of the 12-song LP Neighborhood. “Their” might be the wrong pronoun as Can’t Stop’s only official member is Rubiera, who played every instrument except sax and flute on Neighborhood. But in both shows Rubiera played with a full band, including Animal Tropical mate Jarrett Hann on bass and Plains’ Michael McGinnis on drums at the Sweat show.
Having caught both Can’t Stop shows and listened to Neighborhood several times through, I’ve formed a preference for the live version of the songs. On the record, Rubiera indulges a confessed childhood love of ambient noise with scratches (“Thanks To JV”, #11 on our Top 15 SoFla Songs of 2010), sirens (“We’re Still Frenulums”), and static (“R-Complex”). But I’m not sure the noise adds much but noise to the songs, and part of me feels I’d like them more without the interference, which is how Rubiera plays them live.
Another reason I prefer live Can’t Stop to recorded Can’t Stop: the latter doesn’t do justice to Rubiera’s strong and instantly likable voice. This is most apparent with Neighborhood opener “Amygdala”. On the record, you might take the refrain “Get up, get going, get in a trance” as a sober request. Live it’s a freaking demand, albeit an unnecessary one, since the old-school backbeat and sax riff that drive the song out the gate will have most able-bodied listeners up and going before Rubiera sings his first syllable. The recorded version of “Amygdala” gets noisy midway through with some sustained guitar yawping, and again I’d prefer it didn’t, if only because it cuts into the tune’s killer groove (reminiscent of The Doors’ “Land Ho!”).
Then again, one man’s noise is another man’s melody. In a recent interview, Rubiera said he wrote Neighborhood “through the eyes of a 12-year-old” obsessed with Sonic Youth, Pavement, and the Flaming Lips, all bands that made beautiful noise and noise beautiful. Allowing that Rubiera’s cacophonous inclinations run deep, I’d say the next move is to go all the way and find a way to reproduce Neighborhood in all its noisiness in a live performance. On the other hand, I’d like to see the energy of live Can’t Stop bleed into recorded Can’t Stop, which might take Rubiera bringing a full band into the studio.
I don’t mean to suggest Neighborhood is a dull record. On the contrary, it’s a rollicking musical journey guided by one of Miami’s most energetically creative dudes. (Rubiera plays in several local bands, co-heads Rottweiler Farm Records with Animal Tropical singer Jose Castello, and makes films.) It’s just that a lot of the album’s best moments occur when Rubiera either does have a helping hand — the impossibly catchy sax jam that kicks in at 1:59 on “Thanks To JV”, for example — or when he nearly manages to convince us that he does (“Neighborhood”).
All of which is to say Can’t Stop, in the singular or the plural, is one of the most exciting projects in Miami’s music scene right now, and you’d do well to catch the next show (which is when???).
See more photos from the Can’t Stop CD release party on Facebook.