THE Rubens tapped into something special when they recorded the title track off their second album Hoops.
The song’s R’n’B melody and laid-back hip-hop groove earned the Menangle five-piece a surprise No.1 spot in the triple j Hottest 100 of 2015 and guaranteed an ARIA gold album.
The temptation would have been to travel to the US and work with a big-name producer for album No.3, but instead The Rubens bunkered down in a literal World War II bunker in south-west Sydney with Brooklyn hip-hop producers Wilder Zoby and 'Lil Shalimar.
The result is LO LA RU where The Rubens have attempted to replicate the appeal of Hoops by turning up their R’n’B and pop influences.
This reaches its peak on the sugary sweet Never Ever, co-written by Sarah Aarons, who also duets on the track with frontman Sam Margin. Aarons is best known for co-writing Stay by Zedd and Alessia Cara and brings her pop palette to Never Ever.
Despite the lyric “would I be better f--king someone else instead,” this is the most commercial the Rubens have gone.
But the highlight of LO LA RU is when the band loosens up and embraces their love of ‘60s soul on God Forgot.
However, at times the album does wallow in lounge music mediocrity. On Mary Margin sings awkwardly about letting his date choose the movie and food, and the chorus of Woman Oh Woman almost sounds a knock-off of The Bee Gees’ More Than A Woman.
Overall, LO LA RU is syrupy and smooth, but feels like step backwards from Hoops.