First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by John Metzger
At some point, all things — good and bad — must pass, and every time the mainstream becomes absorbed in an increasingly lusty bunch of lightweights, the amped-up heaviness of rock ’n‘ roll returns with a vengeance. Witness the recent revival of garage rock — one of many that has taken place over the years — which this time has been ushered back into prominence by the likes of The White Stripes, The Hives, and The Strokes. Unlike the grunge movement that exploded more than a decade ago, however, this latest batch of bands is far more retro-minded in its intentions, but damn, if it isn’t a welcome respite from the tired mediocrity that has been thrust into the spotlight for far too long. Britney, Christina, Justin — you’re fifteen minutes are just about up.
Naturally, whenever a faded style gains new life, the innovators inevitably return. With rock ’n‘ roll now in its sixth decade, this expands to the point where all the followers stage reunion tours, too. Such is the case with The Romantics, a Detroit-based ensemble that in 1980 scored a huge hit with the rousing single What I Like about You. As the decade continued, the band strayed from its initial sound, and although its 1983 outing In Heat would prove to be its biggest selling album, the success came at the expense of the group’s songwriting. In short, The Romantics simply ran out of steam, recording little that contained the raw edginess of its debut. Not to mention, the band became embroiled in a lengthy lawsuit with its former managers, which undoubtedly zapped any energy that remained.
As a result, 61/49, The Romantics’ latest effort and sixth full-length studio album is a welcome relief. It finds the band getting back to its roots, blasting through ten songs in 36 ½ minutes with all the rough and rowdy turbulence of its influences. In that sense, the set is largely derivative, one that puts an American spin on the styles of The Who, Them, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones, but its replication is absolutely masterful. Although there are a few lesser tracks that pop up here and there throughout the album, the bulk of the songs are heartily infectious, and the band pounds away with a ferocity that has long been missing from its music. This may or may not be enough to put The Romantics back on the map for the music business is a fickle one — easy on some veterans, impossible for others. Nonetheless, 61/49 is an enjoyable collection, one that deserves its chance to shine among the latest ensembles delving into the garage rock sounds of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box