Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rooney "Calling The World" (2007)

Four years passed between Rooney's [MySpace/Wikipedia] self-titled debut and its follow-up, Calling the World — virtually a lifetime when it comes to many listeners' attention spans. The band spent that time recording and scrapping two albums' worth of material and dealing with label problems; while waiting so long to release new music was a risky move, it probably wasn't as risky as releasing music they didn't believe in completely. As it turns out, Calling the World is a pretty safe bet. Musically speaking, nothing has changed drastically in the band's world since its debut: they still write boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, and boy-gets-over-girl songs, and they still have a knack for loading those songs with plenty of hooks, harmonies, and catchy melodies, all of which are especially apparent on "When Did Your Heart Go Missing?" and the feisty "Don't Come Around Again." However, Calling the World's songs aren't quite as sunny and innocent as Rooney's were. "Are You Afraid?" drives its question home with bombastic, claustrophobic keyboards and paranoid android backing vocals; "All in Your Head"'s insistence that a relationship is purely fictional is almost as cruel as it is catchy. Rooney also update their sound by expanding their influences by a few years, and at times, Calling the World feels like a collection of lost singles from the late '70s and early '80s: "I Should've Been After You"'s guitar heroics, lush buildups, and big harmonies take a page from Queen's playbook, and "Tell Me Soon" feels like a less quirky update of ELO's orchestral pop. Later, "Love Me or Leave Me"'s airy synths and "Paralyzed"'s chunky rhythms nod to new wave and straight-ahead '80s pop/rock. As faithfully as Rooney re-create these sounds on Calling the World, it sometimes feels like the band doesn't bring enough of its own identity to these songs. "What For" is an exception: yes, its limpid guitar lines and pianos can trace their lineage to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, but the song's genuinely sweet sentiments make it one of the album's most unique songs. Calling the World might not be radically inventive, but its solid songcraft and playful shout-outs to rock history are a lot of fun.

The '80s-pop inspired group Rooney is comprised of Robert Carmine (vocals/guitar), Taylor Locke (guitar), Matt Winter (bass), Louie Stephens (keyboards), and Ned Brower (drums). They began honing their own indie rock appeal in 2000 and cite the Beach Boys and ELO as major influences. Trickles of Blur, Superdrag, and the Cars echo throughout their spunky rock sound, however Rooney is no copycat. Carmine did the college thing for awhile in New York City, but it wasn't exactly his calling. Instead, he and his best friends formed a band and made their live debut in early 2002 while opening for his older brother's band, Phantom Planet. Carmine is the younger sibling of drummer/actor Jason Schwartzman. Several months later, Rooney joined Keith Forsey (Billy Idol, the Psychedelic Furs, Simple Minds) in the studio to record material for their debut album. Dates with the Vines and Weezer coincided those sessions. Spring 2003 saw the release of Rooney's self-titled debut. Rooney's sales spiked when the band appeared on The O.C. in 2004; later that year, the DVD Spit and Sweat arrived, collecting live performances, music videos and interviews. Rooney began recording their second album late in 2004 with producer Tony Hoffer, but the album — tentatively titled "The Kids After Sunset" — was scrapped, despite several songs being posted on the band's Myspace page in 2005. More tracks from the sessions leaked onto the Internet and were dubbed "The Lost Album." The band attempted to record their second album again in fall 2005 with Howard Benson in the producer's seat. The album was slated for a 2006 release but was also scrapped due to the band and label's inability to agree which songs should appear on it. In 2006, Rooney toured with Kelly Clarkson and returned to the studio with producer John Fields for a third, and successful, attempt at their second album. Calling the World was released by Cherrytree Records in summer 2007.



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