ShareWORLD KEEPS TURNING - Stoneage Romeos (Action Records)
Certain things are inevitable in life, even in the world of a French rock and roll band. There are no surprises on a Stoneage Romeos record but so what? What's here is good. Let's hope they never turn into fad-driven fashion-followers. The influences are still obvious, and this is an album that will win anyone with a grounding in the finer parts of high-energy music in the '80s.
Opening cut "I Want You" sets it up. It sounds like "Halfway To Sanity"-era Ramones. OK, that's not the Ramones of the first three albums but at the time it was still laying waste to almost anything else you could name. Giles Rodi doesn't ape Joey's warble - live, it was actually a slur around then as he preferred to race through songs rather than sing the words. But again, fuck it: Giles doesn't need to sound like anyone else.
"I Want You" has the same singalong quality of most of the Brudda's material of the mid-'80s; they were still pop but dabbling with all sorts of sounds and sub genres in a struggle to reach a wider audience. David Valentini reels off the sort of fluid, surf-touched guitar lines that Walter Lure used to come in and overdub for the Ramones (because Johnny couldn't play them.) Title track "World Keeps Turning" uses a snappy horn backing section to colour a template that's replicated from the post-Kuepper Saints of the "Monkey Puzzle" album. Which is to say it's pretty great and the stand-out song. It's followed by "The Hurtin' Kind", a rocker that substitutes greasy harmonica for horns and again makes every post a winner.
The Romeos have been around for a while now. They can play. They know that if you're going to record a cover song, you have to make it a good one. The Romeos do that - three times over. "Just What I Needed" was always one of the best from The Cars and Honest John Plain (The Boys) adds some guitar grit as guest. "Till The End Of The Day" is a comparatively tame ride through the Kinks tune, and there's also a version of The Cynic's fabulous "Now We're Alone" that stacks up with the original.
In the end, it's originals that build a reputation and Stoneage Romeos base their own tunes on solid, melodic choruses and a focused guitar attack. I'd like to hear more tonal variation in the guitar parts but what's here isn't half bad. "We Better Get It On" is fairly typical. The band borrows bits from here and there but it's all singable and undeniably rocking.
"Heaven Sucks (I'd Rather Burn In Hell)" is a slow burn. "That Ain't Enough" follows and grabs a ride on the back of a fast tempo and a solid lead-break. That's the Stoneage Romeos all over. Two tempos and solid tunes.
It's been said before but apart from the aforementioned influences, I'm betting the Stoneage Romeos bought every Citadel and Waterfront release that ever appeared in the racks of a French record store. I bet they were in the front row of every Nomads show that came through their town. None of that is a bad thing.
The only thing I'd wish is that they're dirty it all up more often. Just once I wish a song would fall apart in a mess of feedback or they'd hit a bum note. Dissonance has its place. On the next album they should go for broke. The odds are good there'll be another LP and even if it doesn't break any new ground, that'll be OK. Someone has to fight the good fight.– The Barman
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LOST IN SPICE - Stoneage Romeos (Action Records)
A bona fide fun time from go to whoa, "Lost in Spice" is the edgier follow-up to "Into the Wild Blue Yonder". Edgier, because it throws some geopolitical commentary into the mix, but it's no less fun and an equally rocking time.
If the band name didn't convince you that they're a bunch of Aussie-philes, the Stoneage Romeos' cover of the New Christs' "No Next Time" might. It fills the bill well, as do two other reference points in "Sex Beat" (RIP Jeffrey Lee Pierce) and "Last Drive" (by L.A.'s great Hangmen). It's the originals that ultimately will be the measure of a band, however, and the Romeos write some rippers.
"The Girl I Love" (featured on a recent I-94 Bar podcast) is a prime example: crunchy guitars and and irresistible backbeat, swept along on Gilles' Rodi's insistent vocal. Sterling stuff. There's a serious side to these Romeos and the Bush commentary "Dubya" nails the man exactly. Given recent history it was only a matter of time the French gave it back to America in general and "Top Class USA" is a scathing slice of bile that manages to lyrically reference the latter-day Screaming Tribesmen.
"I'm the Dude" drifts into skatepunk land but I'll grant them that indulgence in light of the rest of the record and songs like "Nobody" and "Invisible". The Stoneage Romeos are obvious graduates of the French school influenced by the Citadel label and its reach into Europe. I'd go as far as saying if Citadel had an active European roster, they'd sit pretty well on it. Think of the Stoneage Romeos as a little Heartbreakers without the needle imagery and the Hoodoo Gurus in their "Crank" days.
Production is (again) fullsome with lots of presence, courtesy of the accomplished Johnny Cat.
If you're a fan of soulful rock and roll with a cutting garage edge but are wondering how the French fit into the picture, here's a great place to start. .– The Barman
INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER - Stoneage Romeos (Action Records)
Had this French outfit nailed as a slavish Radio Birdman/Detroit tribute band from the grim looks on the bands' faces on the cover and tunes ("Do the Pop", "Like a Curse", "Dangerous") on the back. (Of course, if I were in a band it would probably be a slavish Radio Birdman/Detroit tribute band, but I digress).
"Do the Pop" IS a Birdman song and "Dangerous" is not the Sonic's Rendezvous Band but a song by Adelaide's Exploding White Mice. OK, the Mice were fairly the bastard offspring of the Motor City and the Ramones, but that's where the clenched fist salutes start and end. Covers are good to show where you're coming from but ultimately it's the quality of your own tunes that gets you home.
Happy to say the seven originals (the opening "Bad Bad Bad" is a Supersuckers cover, so that makes up the 10) are more than up to the mark. In fact, most fans of Dee-troit hi-energy will take to this like a Tek-ophile guitar exponent to a white Epiphone copy, but it's also tinged with a large serving of pop sheen. I'd place this in the general vicinity of the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs; both draw inspiration from the Detroit well but add their own thing as well.
If this is the radio-friendly, French face of hi-energy jams, count me in. I'm a sucker for bass-and-drum drop-outs and "I Don't Like" makes ample use of them to fill out its three minutes. "Filth" is the Hoodoo Gurus in an abusive mood with some fine guitarwork and a great groove. Despite its title, "Like a Curse" actually sounds more like a Birdman driving song than a New Christs psychodrama, and rocks adequately. "You're So Fine" nails a fine melody to the mast and comes home with a wet sail. (For anyone unfamiliar with sailing analogies, that means it fucking rocks regally.)
Stoneage Romeos (no prizes for guessing from where THAT name sprung) are apparently direct descendants of the Gangbangers, who hail from France's soputh-east. They also engaged a gun producer in Johnny Cat (aka Jean Cataldo) of TV Men and Backsliders fame. If you know them, you'll know what to expect and he's done a great job melding punk attitude with tough pop frosting.
The only drawback is the album's length - it clocks in at 26 minutes. Not a bad thing when it leaves you wanting more so brevity is almost a winner on that level.– The Barman
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