Album review: "Spider Fever"
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, Apr. 6, 2012
After about 20 years of playing drums for almost that many bands, Mario Rubalcaba has reinvented himself as a singer-guitarist. The remodel stops there, though. Most of the San Diego musician's various groups played punky garage-rock, and so does Spider Fever, his new outfit. In fact, the new quartet works the same general territory as Off!, the punk-redux band Rubalcaba drummed for at the Red Palace last year.
Rubalcaba is a frontman now, but his quartet's self-
titled, debut long-player doesn't emphasize the vocals. The singing is midway in the mix, barely above Rubalcaba's and Billy Baggins's layered guitars. And while most of the tracks run less than four minutes, they're not trim, pop-punk tunes with shout-along refrains. The songs are so shaggy and open-ended that it's no great surprise when the closer, "Simply Nervous," keeps storming for more than seven minutes.
The band's musical vehemence suits such titles as "Hyena," "Done Wrong" and "Don't Let Death Get in the Way." Yet however angry or confused the half-buried lyrics are, "Spider Fever" isn't a downer. Leading his squad through fields of feedback, Rubalcaba sounds as if he's having a pretty good time.