Not a Led Zeppelin Rip-off
I shall not join the big group of music reviewers who compare Rose Hill Drive to older rock bands from the ‘70s. It is not just because of the fact that the young American band themselves are tired of being described as sounding like other bands, but also because the Colorado quartet deserves some merit for crafting an original sound for themselves. Chocked full of groovy guitar riffing that is well complemented by a driving bass line, drowsy singing, dreamy synths, pounding industrial beats and gunshot drumbeats, this third studio album is not terribly groundbreaking, but decent enough to audition for a slot in your CD rack.
On the first and title track “Americana”, they kick the album right off with a series of their trademark psychedelic riffs, layered on top of the ever consistent bass line and moderate drumming. Vocalist and bassist Jacob Sproul soon joins in with his drugged-like singing and the second guitar invites itself in shortly after him, completing the recipe for a decent start to the album. Nothing superbly special here yet. “Is it gonna be another one of those run-of-the-mill albums in a genre?”, an impatient listener might wonder. Well, this observation seems to appear increasingly valid after all, with the second track “Telepathic” following in a similar style and not sounding very much different.
But then the third track “Baby Doncha Know Your Man” comes in, and that’s when the album starts sounding fresh. The infectious chorus that goes “Baby doncha know ya man, baby doncha know ya man” is reminiscent of Jet’s similarly styled choruses, but throw in fuzzy guitar riffs that accompany clean blues rock guitar melodies and you get a unique sound that is hookish in an old school way, but modern in its execution of fuzzbox usage. Hang on tight people, this is still merely an appetizer of what is to come.
Other tracks on the album that showcase the band’s modern yet nostalgic take on psychedelic rock include “Pictures Of You”—a dreamy song full of repetitive psychedelic synths and fuzzy guitar riffs that creatively imitate the rhythm pattern of Jacob’s vocals right after he’s done belting them out, resulting in a funky sort of tune—and “Speed Dial”, a slow and surreal number that starts off being dominated by an ascending-descending staccato keyboard pattern and which contains whimsical lyrics like, “You used to be number one, then you were number two. You’ve never met three, but four said she knows you.” It soon culminates in a swelling climax full of hard-hitting industrial beats and wailing guitar licks, providing a great lead-in to the next track.
“Psychoanalyst” is another fun song; it starts off with fuzzbox-processed riffs and eventually starts abusing a syncopated motif in the bass line that goes “dum-dum dum-duum”, once again showcasing the juxtaposition of nostalgic old school rock elements against the modern backdrop of electronic music effects.
Even the softest track boasts prominent electronic effects. “Birds Against The Glass” is the only track that is almost entirely acoustic, yet it has haunting synths and relentless industrial beats revving up the sonic serenity after the midway mark, and just as suddenly, they disappear for another moment of peace, building up the tension, before they reappear again, this time with a solid rhythm pattern that anchors their presence.
Departing from the more dominantly traditional hard rock/blues rock sound on their earlier two albums, Rose Hill Drive have crafted an original record that skillfully melds their tributary intention together with the contemporary usage of electronic music effects. Overall, this is an impressive effort that perfectly demonstrates what it means to have psychedelic rock updated with the times.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.