“Rain City Rockers are a band that, however long they play for, will be compared relentlessly to the likes of Blink-182, Bowling For Soup, Greenday, and blah, blah, blah…. They have a bunch of members from other bands you’ve heard of, but we’re supposed to be talking about their NEW band…
Let’s cut to the chase: they are a power-punk band with a singer something like Billie Joe Armstrong (Greenday) and, oddly enough, Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) were crossbred with someone much better looking than either of them. There isn’t anything surprising to be found here; no new metaphysical avenues explored, no new barriers broken musically. There’s a little bit of old-rock sentimentality in there somewhere, but it doesn’t go anywhere Weezer hasn’t already explored.
Perhaps the most innovative thing going on here is their cleanliness. Long past are the days of ugly bands playing happy songs in an ugly way on ugly guitars swinging below their unkempt knees. Men are generally ridiculed for wearing eye-liner, and taking a shower before a show is cool again. So with Rain City Rockers I present to you music of a bygone era, packaged for this one.
It may sound a bit harsh, but I would be surprised (and maybe feeling a bit vulnerable) if they were to disagree. This is a debut-sounding album from a patchwork “supergroup”. Their various musical talents are clearly on display. The only problem is that they’re rocking out in a cage. There is a strong songwriting presence, but it doesn’t seem to ever be fully utilized.
Let me use Sum 41 as an example. I wasn’t crazy about ’em, but they found a way to ooze a raw, infectious energy onto their studio efforts. Nobody can deny that they played hard. According to all the press you can find so far on RCR, this album is, before anything else, a live-tracked album. I hear a few ‘chicked’ notes and vocal breaks, but none of the stuff that I want to hear from a ‘live’ album.
I want to hear dirty solos that would terrify any average guitarist to play on the record. I want to hear dynamical slides (crescendo, decrescendo) you can’t do with single-tracking. I want to hear the kind of swing you can’t get with a click-track! It doesn’t sound like an album that took a lot of risks when it came to recording. It sounds more like an album that was afraid to be itself. As I understand it, the entire album was tracked in a 24-hour period. That’s impressive, and making it sound as tight as they do is incredible—I’m just not convinced there was anything gained by doing so.
The quality of songwriting would have surely landed them eventually in the mainstream 14 years ago. The omniscient, immaculately empathetic storytelling style of the early 2000’s seems to be the driving force, all your favorite power-chord progressions fuel the vehicle. The stereo’s all the way up, but there aren’t any subs in this metaphor… I’m afraid the only ones rocking out are inside the car.
I can tell you, undoubtedly, they will sound as good live. That’s one advantage to their method. I just hope they can produce a little piss and vinegar on-stage to make up for not having a mastering engineer at every show.
Digressing to the more observational (and less cynical), there are a lot of good things happening in this band. Their frontman (Andrew Conroy) came from the mire of non-industry folk, and talked a bunch of people who had no business even jamming with such, into making an album with him. The RCR website lists his collection of songs as a “bargaining chip”, and his sole method of making this happen. Considering how many artists out there have a notebook full of really good songs, kudos brother.
Their drummer (Darrin Pfieffer, Goldfinger) actually let loose a little bit. He seems to breeze through his fills, though not holding back. He doesn’t go Travis Barker at any point, but I’m not even sure Travis Barker is a real person. I’ve never met him.
A couple solos from the lead guitar (Tom Thacker, Gob) and punky-droppy-slides from the bass (Anthony Bleed, Die Mannequin) crank the rockage up to 8-or-9 at times, but fail to hold my attention for very long. The parts are all well-played, but they just aren’t all that interesting.
Aside from that Conroy’s voice is pretty amazing. When I compare him to Billy Joe and Chester, I don’t mean that as a jab. The kid has pipes. As I said earlier, there are a couple breaks, but he keeps it pretty tight. His guitar playing, however, is fairly ordinary. I like my punk frontmen of any variety to be sweating bullets on the 6-string, which he is not. The progressions are simple, so seem to be the chords—but wait isn’t that what punk music is all about? Yes, but only when you are beating the s#!t out of your guitar.
Now I must admit, I’m being a bit biased. Yes, this is “power” punk (or pop punk, or whatever the hell the kids call it), so all this talk of instrument violence, and of dirtiness might be a little off-the-mark, but I’m not concerned with genre stereotypes. It is my strongly held opinion that this is a pretty good band, who could be very good if they got a little more aggressive.
In short, I don’t want to talk about individual songs, as none of them stand out to me. You’ve got Punk song A, B, C, and D, with some minor variations. Nothing drastic. They’ve got a video up (linked below), of a song that’s a smart choice for their single. That’s all I’m going to say. I’ll let you all find out for yourselves.
In closing, I like this band for what they stand for. I’m just not sure they’re all the way on their feet yet. I am optimistic about everything to come, especially if it doesn’t involve cheap dubstep or “hard” rock (of which this industry has a gluttonous surplus). They’re doing something that’s been done, but at a time where that itself is the risk they’re taking. I find it admirable, but I want a whole lot more.”
Their single, “Saint Babe”
Album Length: 11 tracks, 33 minutes, 17 seconds
Released: September 16th, 2014
Label: Flashlight Music Group (http://www.flashlightmusicgroup.com/)
1. Mindful Madness (3:01)
2. On My Own (3:30)
3. Choked Up (2:27)
4. Miss Lindsay (2:32)
5. Saint Babe (3:02)
6. She Doesn’t Even Know (2:54)
7. Who Do You Think You Are (3:49)
8. Monster (2:34)
9. Disgraced (4:27)
10. Tori (2:36)
11. Change Of Pace (2:25)
Andrew Conroy – Rhythm Guitar/Vox
Tom Thacker – Lead Guitar/Vox
Anthony Bleed – Bass/Vox
Darrin Pfieffer – Drums