CD REVIEW: Ruocco - Too Hip For the Room
By Ashley Petkovski - 09/08/2002 - 05:08 AM EDT
Album: Too Hip For the Room
Ruocco is, to steal from another forthrightly hipster band, hard to explain. A band sprawled across a musical territory spanning industrial, brit-pop, electronica, power-pop and everything in between, Ruocco ambitiously sit in a niche carved out by classic genre-benders like Joy Division. "Too Hip For the Room," the first release from the band, is an engaging listen, bringing together sophistication, intellect, passion, intensity and, of all things, a sweet pop sensibility.
Anthony Bozza (of Rolling Stone magazine) described Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails and Tapeworm) with the words: "As much as his music screams 'F*ck you,' it whispers 'Love me.'" Now, since I'm just not that clever, I'm going to put those words to the music of Ruocco. At its most serious of moments, "Too Hip For the Room" exudes gently its impeccably well-phrased anger, culled primarily from unrequited questioning ("Jesus") and the self-possessed lover ("Tuna"). Cold messages of ravaged love are laced with a vulnerability, be it musical or lyrical. Ruocco have the gift of giving cutthroat energy another side, another dimension. "OpenHeartSurgery," with it's electronically charged verses and catchy, yet bleak, chorus, is a kiss off to the painful relationship - "You can light a candle. You can set my heart on fire. But you extinguished all of my desire. The thought of you just leaves me sick and tired." - with a lyrical silver lining - "Gonna kiss the sunlight, greet the brand new day. 'Cos she's so beautiful and she's so pure." Strong 'bad relationship' songs are often contrasted by an upbeat musicality. "So That's Your Man" is the closest thing to a genuine punk song, aggressive and driving yet impeccably upbeat and amazingly catchy. This duality lends itself to the overall diversity of the record. Moving away from the typical one-sidedness of most modern music, "Too Hip For the Room" sheds an emotive light into the honest heart of man and goes back to a day and age where the music opened itself to actual thought. Possessing the abilities of a modern day Morrissey when it comes to putting a word to the paper, Piers Eccleston (lyricist, lead guitarist) provides the majority of the lyrics on “Too Hip For the Room,” with help from Michael Ruocco (“Shine On”) and Leon Fisk (“Standing on the Shore”). Eloquence without the sacrifice of melody and the capability of being wonderfully sexual and mysterious, Ruocco have written themselves into supremacy.
Ruocco not only deliver stunning lyrics, but manage to keep ears occupied with sleek, captivating music. Bringing together any and every genre, Ruocco are one of few bands who can be unpredictable, without growing gimmicky and ultimately predictable. Beautifully produced, written and performed, each song on “Too Hip For the Room” moves minute-by-minute, never waning. Usually classy and acoustic or dark and electronically tinged, Ruocco’s songs welcome horns, harmonies, and what they refer to as Deckology. Not only is there a strong Smiths influence lyrically, but musically as well. The jangly, beautiful Marr-Guitar is all through this record, adding evident sonic depth. Jo Bohling, lead vocalist, sings with a shadowy sensuality, perfectly adding to the instrumentals, which are performed with proficiency and a genuine connection to their instruments and to each other.
No matter how good or bad a record is, there is always a standout among the crowd. “Lost Soul,” the fifth and finest track, takes musical sexuality - dark, smooth and pulsating - to a rarely explored level. “Shine On,” is a fine runner up, with elements of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” along with a sophisticated pop edge that works only for a handful of bands.
Ruocco fit nicely in with that handful of bands (The Smiths, The Pixies, 95% sane Brian Wilson era Beach Boys etc.), as hard to explain as they may be. A faultless first, Ruocco deliver a record that exudes unhindered style and passion (and some of the greatest album art ever). Innovative, intriguing and intelligent, “Too Hip For the Room” is an undiscovered cornerstone for modern music. To answer the Dictators' cries of “Who Will Save Rock & Roll?” we can hopefully turn to Ruocco one of these days. Maybe their music isn’t pure, fist pumping rock & roll, but it’s almost as good as The Smiths and one hell of a lot better than most of today’s saviours. And even if they aren’t recognized by the masses as some form of genius, we can at least take solace in the fact that the British press will, within weeks, put them on the pedestal and kick their bums right off – a true sign of greatness.
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