The title track of this album sets the tone, sounding like a therapy session with Ruston Kelly reminding himself not to give in to weakness before screaming “fuck that guy he’s just a piece of shit”. The guitar screeches in a way that is anything but pop. Despite the fact that even the press release that came with this called him “alt pop”, no one know exactly what this is, lets be real.

As signposts go for the record, you’ll not find a better one. It is immediately clear too, that this is a different sounding record, a more expansive one, than the previous two. Working with producer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Nate Mercereau (Sharon Van Etten, Leon Bridges, Maggie Rogers) nothing appears off-limits.

In many ways, even though he kept it simpler musically in the past, Ruston Kelly has always been the same. Back in 2018, he was saying in interviews: “Sometimes you’ve gotta go into that darkness—you need to get lost and then figure out for yourself how to find your way back. That’s the only way we can find pure joy, and really be thankful for the life we’ve been given.”

To be honest, fast forward five years and you’d struggle to find a lot of joy in “The Weakness.” But here’s the thing that really matters. In my review of “Dying Star” – his debut – I wrote this: “A quite brilliant record, it is up there with the very finest debuts. The title of “Dying Star” is the only thing it gets wrong. Ruston Kelly is on the rise and he burns as brightly as anyone ever has.” And “…Weakness” is almost as good.

 “Hellfire” has a sweet melody, but the lyrics are raw. Kelly sings about wishing to be someone else, and on “St Jupiter,” he looks over a breakup and reasons that if “I could travel back in time, I’d shut my mouth and let you shop.” It’s the little details that matter in this work. And there are many of them.

This break-up album is intimate and shows rare vulnerability. “Let Only Love Remain” has a country flavour with haunting backing vocals. The songwriting on this album is sensational, with “Michael Keaton” being the standout track where anger burns through the lyrics. Kelly goes from being high in the middle of the night to burning someone’s house down in about 25 seconds. Don’t try this at home, I guess. If Dashboard Confessional was an Americana artist, he might sound like “Mending Song.” The more you listen to this album, the more unsettling it becomes. “Dive” has an odd musical style, and “Breakdown” adds drums to sound more strident, but the overall vibe is still someone sharing their pain with you.

On one hand, Kelly’s work isn’t too far from Jesse Malin’s earlier stuff, as seen in “Holy Shit” and others. On the other, “Better Now” is introspective and claustrophobic. The music and harmony vocals on “Wicked Hands” underline the album’s central message of catharsis, while fittingly, perhaps it doesn’t close on a bright moment, but rather “Cold Black Mile” explains that this might be the hardest thing the singer will ever have to survive.

Will it bring peace? Maybe, maybe not. That doesn’t seem to be the point here anyway, instead, this is an artist laying it all out for everyone to share – and that is what Ruston Kelly excels at. “The Weakness” is as strong as it gets.

Rating 9/10

More From Author


Popular Posts

Latest Gig Reviews

Latest Music Reviews


Band Of The Day