River Rouge – Not All There Anymore

River Rouge Not All There Anymore

Kicking off with backroom alt-country blues rock Black Licorice, there’s a nice Electric Mayhem swagger to the arrangment, though the vocal from Andre Comeau has a slightly distracting polish to it that nudges things a little closer to The Mavericks when it should be a bit more Ryan Adams. But still it’s a toe-tapping opener at best.

Murder of the Crows has a more laidback, summery vibe, Steve Welch’s organ poking its nose in occasionally and Cameau’s banjo happily sauntering through the track. Whilst Usurper Hero has a familiar bounce, like a Western scored by They Might Be Giants; it’s light and inoffensive, barely two minutes long and its breeziness is as much to its detriment as it is to its benefit. River Rouge’s self-confessed ’70s pub rock’ gives the band both a sense of warm nostalgia, but is equally sometimes hackneyed and too unadventurous.

Comeau, who is the ringleader of this outfit that – on this record – encompasses a total of 11 artists, has had an interesting history. He was an original cast member of MTV’s The Real World in 1993, which led to a recording contract for his band Reigndance, but after three under-performing LPs they disbanded in 1997 and Comeau unplugged his amps and learnt the banjo which has undoubtedly led towards the backward looking sound of this new collective.

You can hear his old rock chops with his Chris Cornell-like delivery on Good At Goodbye, its a more bluesy number than the Soundgarden frontman is known for, but if he wound up doing karaoke at some lonely backwater bar you can imagine this might be how it’d sound. As if on cue there’s the sound of applause and the pleasingly scratchy production of No Good For Nothing pipes up, it’s a country ballad that literally bobs up and down with Comeau dueting, it’s the band in their element and where their simplistic, approachable arrangments work best.

It’s followed by the title track of this LP, which shifts everything into a slow, steady steel guitar and Comeau’s voice quieter and bitter, and it works brilliantly until the track starts to build, which diminishes the effect of the moody opening turning it, unfortunately, into a somewhat cheesy defiant pop song.

There’s some embarassing near rap on Riff Raff and then Railroad Song which sounds exactly like a country song with a reference to trains in the title would usually sound. Things go a bit Elliot Smith with Ducks On The Pond, a nice clockwork rhythm and twinkly piano, though its lyrically predictable at best and borderline a nursey rhyme at worst. The album closes with Yes a big, happy, dopey strut with elements of Joe Cocker leading the Thanksgiving parade to it, whilst lyrically its got a flavour of Randy Newman at his most saccharine. But, it’s so charmingly upbeat that it takes a real hard heart not find it enjoyable in a dopey, ear-to-ear grin kind of way.

This is a decent record, but disappointingly unambitious and there are hints here and there – be it a nice rich arrangment or Comeau reigning things in and performing a song from his gut – that suggest Comeau could deliver a strong, emotional and invigorating country rock record, but as it stands, this one is so-so.


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