"Rook" what we have here
The Rooks' blend of pop, rock, folk and thoughtful songwriting is evident on their latest CD, "A Wishing Well."
By DAWN EDEN
Considering that OffOffOff is dedicated to New York City-area culture,
there is some irony in the Rooks' being our premiere band of the week. One
would have to go all the way back to the Left Banke (of "Walk Away Renee"
fame) to find a local band less "New York" than this foursome.
Actually, the Left Banke are one of the more appropriate comparisons, as
the Rooks' latest release, "A Wishing Well" (on the tiny Denver, Colo., label NotLame), bears similarly lush orchestrations. Other
comparisons that are springing to many reviewers' minds are the Beach Boys'
"Pet Sounds" and the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper," although, in
"A Wishing Well's" embracing of folk-rock guitars and harmonies, it
perhaps more nearly approaches Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends" (an
admitted favorite of Rooks leader Michael Mazzarella).
That's not to say that "A Wishing Well" is, track by track, the
equal of those classic albums. Like its namesake, it bears up a storehouse
of coinage in the form of hooks and harmonies some glittering, some dull
along with chiming guitars and bittersweet vocal turns, some sparkling
new, others sounding as though they were unearthed from deep within wistful
record collectors' pockets. Mazzarella, who co-produces as well as sings
and writes, sounds like he came out on the losing end of one too many
tosses as he tries in songs like "Happenstance" and "Vows" to make heads or
tails of broken relationships. When his lyrics are as sharp and cohesive as
his dazzlingly intricate arrangements, as in "Do You Have God" "Do you
have God, 'cause you don't have me to curse at anymore?" the results are
almost illegally tender, but there is no denying their genuine currency.
|Michael Mazzarella (vocals, guitar)|
Kristin Pinell (guitar, vocals)
Patrick Yourell (drums).
| MERCHANDISE FOR SALE |
|Available from CDBaby.com:|
| AUDIO |
|Do You Have God || RA|
|India || RA|
| © The Rooks. Used by permission.|| |
Numismatic puns aside, a scan of the booklet of "A Wishing Well"
gives an idea of how ingrained the Rooks (who released their first album in
1994) are within what is known as, for the lack of a more descriptive word,
the area's power-pop scene. In addition to Rooks members Michael
Mazzarella, Kristin Pinell (an extraordinary lead guitarist who does double
duty in the Grip Weeds), and Patrick Yourell, the album includes guest players such as Mike Mesaros of the Smithereens, Huw Gower of the Records,
Richard X. Heyman, Frank Bango, Lauren Agnelli & Dave Rave, Debbie
Schwartz, Joe Mannix of Mannix, and
celebrated downtown trumpeter Leif Arntzen. Anybody who knows any of those
artists (except perhaps the Smithereens) knows that these are not party
types who will drop by and moan a few lines into a microphone in exchange
for a cold Rolling Rock and a whiff of some unspeakable controlled
substance. These are the people whom pop fans around the world hold
responsible for keeping a unique and special brand of concise, catchy,
creative, and vital three-minute tune alive. That they would contribute
their talents to such an enterprise for no money (OK, maybe a Rolling Rock,
but warm, with no controlled substance on the side) speaks volumes for the
"A Wishing Well" was recently licensed by the British label Castle
Communications, along with the Rooks' back catalogue. The latter will be
compiled onto a single CD, "Encore Echoes". Castle plans to release
both discs on March 1. The Rooks are the first new artist signed to the
label, which is best-known for its reissues of such artists as the Kinks,
Small Faces, and countless other vintage stars. There are rumors that the
Rooks may tour England in the spring, but for the moment they are on
hiatus, until they take on a permanent bass player. In the meantime, the
domestic release of "A Wishing Well" is available from the Virgin
Megastore in Times Square, or from notlame.com.|
|DECEMBER 13, 1999|
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