reviewed by Jeff McAllister
Vancouver’s indie-rock family takes flack for being formulaic. Perhaps its the by-product of dewy pines, sea-foam-spiked air and all-day espressos, but the gamut of West-Coast talent—Dan Mangan, Hannah Georgas, and Mother Mother, to drop a few names—can certainly be tied down to a time and a place. Don’t get me wrong, all four of these acts are fucking fantastic, but one hazard of homogeneity is that once someone’s found what they believe to be greatest pop-rock album of all time, it’s tough to convince them to move on to another.
To peg Vancouver’s Rococode as the solution to this phenomenon would be naïve—in fact, all four members have played with, toured with, or actually been a part of at least one of the aforementioned acts. But to call them derivative would be a far greater crime; Guns, Sex, and Glory, Rococode’s 11-track debut is more dense than its musical kin. The composition, more nuanced. In 26 minutes, the record treads more contemporary-pop territory than most bands’ fourth or fifth release, without ever running the risk of sounding like a variety show.
One element in the equation is that Rococode is co-fronted by two very different vocalists: Andrew Braun and Laura Smith. The two may compliment each other in call and response scenarios, but sound worlds apart on their own. Smith has an impish wail, saccharine and dance-floor worthy; what Braun brings to the table is restraint, best executed on the album closing title track.
The second element: the band’s limber songwriting. On opening, Guns, Sex, and Glory is studded with hooks—”Concentrate on Me,” “Empire” and “Blood” seem in direct competition to become the album’s sing-along anthem. The record then veers dangerously left toward “Ghost 1” and “Ghost 2,” whose swollen strings scrape eerily over one of Canadiana’s tighter rhythm sections, Johnny Andrews and Shaun Huberts. A buzzing disintegration. And BOOM! Enter the power-pop of “Weapon.” This all takes place in a manner of minutes.
Guns, Sex, and Glory may showcase Rococode’s mastery of contemporary pop, but does it go anywhere new? No, not exactly. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing—experimental art can be exhausting. Us Coasters need our energy from sea-wall jogs and mountain climbs (two things the album soundtracks phenomenally, by the by.) Ambition is nothing without execution; the devil is in details. Which is exactly where Rococode outshines its peers.
Top Tracks: “Empire,” “Ghost 1,” “Ghost 2”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *Swoop*