Ruel – 4th Wall

A punchy yet eclectic debut offering...

Ruel has had talent to burn since Day One. An explosive Australian pop force, he lit up streaming with his opening batch of singles, scoring an almost-instantaneous global audience. But then came the pandemic, and then came lockdowns – and almost endless array of delays. ‘4th Wall’ is his debut album, but it’s also three albums in one; Ruel scrapped his work over and over, filtering the debris down into this introductory statement.

As a result, ‘4th Wall’ is pleasingly diverse. In an era of play-it-safe pop debuts he opted to hit both the mainstream and the left-field, moving from glossy pop bangers to plaintive acoustic fare. Opener ‘GO ON WITHOUT ME’ is a bold move, with its Elton style piano chords underpinning a seismic vocal. But then moments such as ‘LIE’ – with its open, yearning vocal and Sufjan-esque melodies – or the acoustic ‘LET THE GRASS GROW’ show a quite different side to his personality.

The wistful ‘JAPANESE WHISKEY’ offers late-night musings, while ‘WISH I HAD YOU’ is torn into pieces by regret. Yet the maudlin twilight aspects are counter-balanced by accelerated pop gloss – ‘IF AND/OR WHEN’ bounces like a 1975 stadium thumper, while cinematic closer ‘END SCENE’ touches on late 90s production values, with Ruel citing Fight Club and Truman Show as key factors in his world-building.

Indeed, despite its versatility there’s few elements here that don’t seem out of place. ‘I DON’T WANNA BE LIKE YOU’ is a carefree bop, tailored for summer crowds; ‘YOU AGAINST YOURSELF’ meanwhile has an INXS strut. Taken as a whole, ‘4th Wall’ is ruthlessly entertaining and undeniably ambitious, with Ruel chopping down the excess to leave only prime cuts. A punchy introductory gambit, the album finds the Australian pop trailblazer hauling down the walls while letting fans into his world.


Words: Robin Murray

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