Southern band of brothers makes engaging power pop but falls well short of standards set by Big Star and the dBs.
Two pairs of Tennessee-based brothers crank out the jangly power pop, a la the Gin Blossoms, in this fifth full-length. The disc starts strong with bass-driven “Tess”, a churning, pummeling stomper, whose heat is only eased by fluid, almost-falsetto vocals. Mournful “The Quarterback” captures the ebb and flow of small town life, a sweet melancholia wafting around stories of a hobbled football player, a stylish, but isolated young girl. “Knot of Tension” ratchets up the energy mid-album, its clamped and palm muted guitar riff a solid architecture under florid, super-pop melodies. “Microkorg”, named after the keyboard that carries the song’s weight, adds an electro-chill to the Rockwell’s warm, traditional guitar-pop sound. There are eccentric touches -- the brass choir in “Ten Years Old Horns”, a long instrumental reverie in “Middle Eight Waltz” -- but none of the radiant beauty, the essential individuality of great southern pop songs from Big Star and the dBs. This is straightforward stuff, however enthusiastically played and sung.