Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rooney - Calling The World - 2007


Four years passed between Rooney's 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.-AMG

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