The Farmingville, New York based five piece Chris Ruben Band has rapidly established a reputation as one of the foremost love acts working the East Coast concert scene, but their purview expands far past those confines and includes high profile appearances at Austin’s SXSW festival as well. One listen to their latest single “Stomach Coil” illustrates why. It’s the first follow up to the band’s debut EP, Fortune Favors the Bold, and places the band’s progression in clear context – despite a fine first release, the band has made a big leap into their future with a new single burning with even more conviction than we’ve heard thus far from the unit.
Despite the presence of Ruben’s guitar work in the songwriting, you can never pigeonhole the band’s work as strictly guitar driven. The Chris Ruben Band, instead, embraces a broad based sound in which the guitar plays a crucial role but the six string is woven into a larger tapestry. “Stomach Coil” has some hard edges, thanks to the guitar and drumming alike, but it’s interspersed with a lighter sound servicing the band’s skillful use of dynamics. The contrast of light and shadow powering much of “Stomach Coil” elevates it above standard rock/funk fare. Make no mistake, however, Ruben does unleash the full force of his guitar work during the song’s second half with a particularly fiery guitar solo providing quite an exclamation point for the track.
Roben’s vocals aren’t nearly as incendiary, but they don’t need to be. They offer a ballast, of sorts, against the flaming instrumental talent in evidence from the first and possess surprising sensitivity for the material. The sensitivity plays well with the lighter musical strands of the piece, especially Eugene and Frank Iovine’s contributions on keyboards, though Frank’s brass playing is missing from this track. The airy sections of this track bring his voice to the fore and there’s a smattering of post production effects applied to his vocal increasing its atmospherics.
Spacing is crucial to the song’s success. The band’s ability to bring their instrumental prowess to bear in a major way, yet pull back at the right times, and drummer Russ Benjamin helps anchor those moments with spot on and intensely rhythmic playing. Concision is an important aspect of the band’s presentation with this song – the song clocks in at three minutes eleven seconds, but Rubens and his band mates manage to incorporate a vast world of sound and color during that time without ever straining listener’s attention. It is a lean, muscular affair, sinewy, and never wastes a word or note while entertaining the audience.
The Chris Ruben Band will continue improving with each new live appearance and you can hear how these performances inform their songwriting and studio performances. “Stomach Coil” is an ideal addition to the band’s concert set and a likely staple for months, if not years, to come. The band is a talented conglomeration of musicians, but there’s never any virtuosic self indulgence heard during this song – everything serves a final end of building the song rather than showing off. It’s one of the best guitar prominent singles in recent memory.