Rooms Rooms

[Self-released; 2010]

Styles: post-punk
Others: Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Scissors for Lefty

“Don’t force me to make up my mind/ It is the simple things we need/ The simple things we want,” goes the rickety hook-by-repetition on Rooms’ “Wain.” If simplicity is the band’s mantra, they’ve struck gold on their absolutely proficient self-titled, self-released debut — and here’s hoping “proficient” comes off like the notoriously backhanded “pleasant.” Proficient: they meet state standards, they pass. I’m obviously doing my best to dodge my awkward responsibility to literally decide if this is ‘good’ or not — the old joke is that NME picks bands like this out of a hat for each new issue, right — but I can tell you whether Rooms are different, challenging, high in fiber, ‘important’ in any way to our moment. Answer: neh.

Full disclosure is, this reviewer thought even Silent Alarm sorta missed the boat in 2005, which would make this 2010 album…what, post-punk-revival-revival? It would be if it knew CPR, or had much life of its own. Either way, it’s healthiest to look at post-punk, a genre deadened by critics if there ever were one, as more of a cultural metronome than an end in itself, which is exactly where Rooms fail. The vocals should piss or jig on these grooves; instead, singer Matt Askren’s noncommittal croak floats somewhere between boredom and angst. No matter how many times he sings “Caroline,” you don’t get how he actually feels about her, and by extension she never gets to become a real person. The ears want to sift Askren out. Moving on, there’s a lot of potential in that double-or-triple guitar architecture, right? But in the end I get so starved for the slightest syncopation that the left-right stabs in “Long Distance Test Pilot” are actually kind of exciting.

Consistent to a fault, Rooms were smart to follow age-old wisdom to shake up what they’ve got going on the last track. “Red Sky” rises and falls through its sections on some great (read: noticeable) drumwork and, by shuffling in more surprises than the other eight tracks combined, ends up being their most complex and rewarding song. I’m a big proponent of best-track-last, and I wish the strength of “Red Sky” made the other dragged-out half hour worth it. Look, I’m not universalizing shit: some listeners have been chowing this kind of stuff whenever they can get their hands on it, and they’ll be glad that Rooms exist. But you know what this sounds like already. It’s frustrating, in a time when it’s important to cover bands without the benefit of a label, to encounter an independent band that probably ought to be signed, but for all the wrong reasons.

Links: Rooms - Self-released

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