FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF WORTH
Article By: Melissa Saunders
Cover Art by: Lucifer Alvini
With a shit ton of Allston bands murkily impersonating some variation of Sonic Youth and/or Crystal Castles, Rodeo Church are rather audacious in their embrace of cheerful indie pop music. Take the opening track of Rodeo Church EP (2010 - Haunted Casino Media), "Miserable;" it is at least titularly misleading. This is an upbeat track both danceable and pleasant. It opens with Jeremy Lee Given's chirpy stippling of synthesizers that recall a less annoying Passion Pit. The chorus melodically swoons upwards but the lyrics are smart and worldly enough that the whole affair doesn't become too cloying: "I know where I am/every day's the same/wake up in the morning/miserable again." "Miserable" is kind of like a sonic speed ball, the "stimulant" being the neatly arranged instrumentation and beaming sing-along chorus, the "depressant" analogous to the post-adolescent malaise touched upon in the lyrics.
The second track, "Laughing Panther/Post-Party Disaster," indubitably stands out with its insidious and creepy bass lines. Adding the bass as a focal point and piling on a distorted, dissonant guitar may not be a new trick but it works on this song. Oddly dank and psychedelic, "Laughing Panther" recalls a more palatable retread of the Seeds: shimmy-inducing sixties garage rock swagger cured with enough deft pop sensibility. Vocalist Adam Young slings some verbal quips that are custommade for the song's femme fatale party protagonist. With lines like, "Run your little mouth like a blow torch" and "put a Band-Aid on my bleeding heart," the sinuous lyrics swirl into the music like libidinous hip swivels the song obviously begets.
The steeze of the EP shifts, however, with track three, "The People That Brought Us Up." The title could easily refer to the New York band the Strokes, as it is most evident here that Rodeo Church are highly influenced by them. The song opens with shuffling drum machine scrambles, slightly gravelly vocals and guitars filtered within an inch of their lives. It's hard to tell if Rodeo Church are indulging in such borrowed familiarity for the purposes of exaltation or emulation. Compared to the aforementioned Sonic Castles/Crystal Youth retreads of Allston, it's paradoxically refreshing to hear a band that sounds like the Strokes, especially with the anticipation of March 2011's release Angles.
Still, the tempo of "People" stays consistently danceable (similar to the boob-bouncing beats of, you guessed it, the Strokes), cohesively listenable. The lyrics are still brilliant; pangs of Allstonian melancholy are apparent in lyrics describing a "sad, decaying city," formerly with "streets once paved with gold" that have turned to "rust and shit and traces of people who probably sold their souls." Juxtaposed with artist Lucifer Alvini's surreal cover art, Rodeo Church's songs are justifiably upbeat; they survived Allston and survive it every day.
Listening to the EP becomes trying as "Desperate Is Not a Sexual Preference" does not get more interesting than its clever title. It is a decidedly more muted song, serving more of a transitional filling purpose than the smart, danceable tracks Rodeo Church does so well.
However, emulating another band so closely, even a well-loved one like the Strokes, could spell future troubles for Rodeo Church. Slack ultimately has to be given because these guys have the chops and enthusiasm and are still figuring out their sound. While the unabashed indie pop is a brave act, the guys of Rodeo Church could do themselves well by tapping into unharnessed originality. With their obvious chops and spirited playing, sounds of Rodeo Church will have any dance floor alive and any room on fire.