Rockfour’s global debut Another Beginning doesn’t exactly break new ground, nor does it employ previously untapped musical resources to make its point. On the contrary, this group’s scroll of diverse influences are instantaneously noticeable with the passing of each of the album’s 13 tracks. The band utilizes Rubber Soul-era Beatles, Pet Sounds-period Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Association, The Zombies and the Turtles coupled with early ‘70s psychedelic rock nuances of Pink Floyd, David Bowie and The Move to create a sound that, interestingly enough, is indelibly Rockfour. In addition to an album’s worth strong compositions, the most surprising fact about Rockfour is that they hail from Tel Aviv, Israel, which is not exactly the Mecca of popular music.
RockFour was formed in 1990 in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon by Eli Lulai (vocals/guitar), Baruch Ben Izhak (bass/vocals), and Issar Tennenbaum (drums) who began playing together in their free evenings during military service. Under the name of Rock-4, the band released the moderately successful Butterfly Net (1991) in their native Israel, but by 1994 the band had underwent several changes in both personnel and musical direction. With the addition of Marc Lazare (bass/vocals), Baruch moved to lead guitar and the band changed their name officially to Rockfour. The release of The Man Who Saw it All (1995) not only introduced the new lineup, but heralded their unique sound, one steeped in the influential music of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Looking to make an impact internationally, Rockfour spent 1996 translating their previously released catalog from Hebrew to English, while concentrating on writing exclusively English-speaking music to attract a broader audience. This move paid big dividends when Westerners warmly embraced Supermarket (2000) and One Fantastic Day (2001). In August 2001, Rockfour was invited to perform at both the International Pop Overthrow (IPO) in Los Angeles and Babypop in San Francisco to ecstatic reviews, and subsequently signed a deal with Rainbow Quartz (Cotton Mather, The Grip Weeds).
Essentially, Another Beginning is collection of the best numbers culled from both Supermarket and One Fantastic Day, but yet the album is as seamless and cohesive as it is intriguing. The genius of Rockfour lies in their ability to take classic, retro sounds (coupled with smart, well-thought out arrangements) and give them a fresh, modernized, 21st century feel—moving far beyond mere revivalism. The Zombies-influenced “Government” gets the record off to a glowing start, from it’s ominous intro to it’s tight, Association-tinged background harmonies, the song is a precursor to the wonderful music yet to come. The peppy “Oranges” conjures up 5D-period Byrds from the airy, layered harmonies to Baruch’s bright, 12-string Rickenbacker stylings which closely mimic the cool lines laid down by Roger McGwinn on “Eight Miles High”. The music of “Oranges” is uplifting and completely ‘60s. The song utilizes a combination of vibrant Rubber Soul guitar (think “If I Needed Someone” and “Think For Yourself”) and Lulai’s George Harrison-ish vocals to transport the listener while the opening lyric, “Everyone’s having fun” assures that you’ll do just that. For a study in extreme contrasts you have “One Fantastic Day”, a song that borrows liberally from Pet Sounds by employing a circusy, atmospheric “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” intro that segues into a flowing Carol Kaye, “God Only Knows” bassline and then blows it out with bombastic Buzzcockian guitars. Totally interesting. “President of Me” provides a brief moment of introspection. A song that would have fit nicely on Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, this number is Rockfour’s “Space Oddity”, an examination of loneliness and desperation with vocal touches that are way to close to David Bowie himself.
While tethering Rockfour’s Another Beginning to it’s plethora of influences may seem irreverent, or perhaps the easy way out, especially for a band with such amazing potential. The fact is, that any description of Rockfour’s music will fall pitifully short of actually depicting the magic they have made here. Another Beginning is a record that deserves to be intently listened to, as it both challenges and stimulates the imagination, the way music used to do, before MTV came along and created the imagery for us.
// Notes from the Road
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