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Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: Rooney: "Eureka"

In 2003, Rooney's self-titled debut hit me at just the right time in my life.  A nineteen-year-old in the midst of my first summer back home, Rooney's songs just resonated with me in a way that very few albums ever have.  The album has remained on my rotation every summer, literally soundtracking the years' hottest months with smooth, beach-rocky goodness and eventually earned the #40 spot on my "Best of the Decade" list.  I loved everything about it.  The band's second effort, Calling the World, was a less-focused but equally entertaining album.  And so it is with a bit of sadness that must label Rooney's third LP as a complete disappointment.

Rooney's strength has always been their ability as a band to blend modern rock sounds with the older, more established sounds of the 60s and 70s.  They continue this trend on Eureka, and yet there's something missing here.  That thing is 'heart.'  I'd be lying if I said that Rooney's music never seemed a bit plastic, but here they seem to just be going through the motions.  The catchy, pop-rock is still there, but Robert Schwartzman's once-infectious, passionate vocal exclamations are long gone; replaced with vocals that sound good, sure, but far from notable.  Even his lyrical talent seems to be waning.

"Stars and Stripes" is the song on Eureka that best captures this criticism.  On the surface, it's a poppy song with tight instrumentation and decent vocals.  But Shwartzman's lyrics come off as a poor-man's version of "Lean on Me."  He sings, "It's gonna take the world to change. It's time to start helping each other.  There's nobody left to take the blame.  We're all gonna have to take it together."  Yeah, yeah, we get it; but sing it with some conviction, and maybe we'll latch on to that idea.  Even the harmonies on this song are completely uninspiring!  "Not in My House" is a pretty poor effort as well, sounding somewhere in between "War Pigs," "Icky Thump" and Fountains of Wayne.  Actually, the Fountains of Wayne comparison might not be so far off album-wise; which, by the way, is bad.

Ok, so I'm clearly not the biggest fan of Eureka, but my critique is not without a few concessions.  For starters, it's good to hear modern rock that doesn't pander to the bottom feeders of society.  Even when they come off as a less-authentic version of themselves, Rooney can be a lot of fun to listen to, or to put on at the start of a long drive.  Songs like "Don't Look at Me" or "I Can't Get Enough" seem to capture some of the magic that the band has seemingly lost over the years, which is both refreshing and encouraging.  But these are bright spots on an otherwise un-notable album.  While the band still has the talent and sound to be occasionally entertaining, they've created a lackluster record that doesn't really give me a reason to play it over any of their older stuff.  Speaking of which, it's pretty hot outside.  I may want to go throw some on!

Key Tracks:
1. "I Can't Get Enough"
2. "Only Friend"
3. "Into the Blue"
4. "Don't Look at Me"

5 out of 10 Stars

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