The James Rocket – We Are Here For You – Derby Girl – a music review
Okay, this is a necessarily short review, because this collection of songs is what used to be called a Double A-side, where both songs could be the single, and to my ears, they both could. Mind you, I’m a little biased, because James is a pal of mine, and I’ve been listening to the rough demos of these songs for a couple of years, now. I even tinkered with them a bit, which I have to say was fun, even if there are no traces of my monkeying in the final, perfect results; in fact, that’s for the best. James and I are sort of a mutual appreciation society, but our sensibilities aren’t a perfect fit. But man can he write a shiny, gritty pop tune! He’s the only guy I know personally whose songs I’d really like to play live.
So, THE REVIEW:
WE ARE HERE FOR YOU – opens with a marching intro from the stormtrooper movie soundtrack of my dreams. It’s a paradiddle-laden drumfest with a beautifully melodic, sinuous bassline, and that jangly, angular wall of guitars crashing through that James can’t seem to live without, all married to a great lyric that sounds like a rallying cry for the survivors of the new millennium. It sneaks in some strings and goes out on an elegiac high note, which is no mean feat for alt.rock with this much attitude. It’s an incredibly hopeful, buoyant number, muscular and anthemic, and I defy you to listen to it and not be humming that fucking chorus for a week. I actually started singing harmonies for it, it was so compelling (I got over it, barely).
And speaking of attitude, let’s discuss DERBY GIRL, the short and bittersweet paean to those rockingest of women, the roller derby girls. It’s a slow-starting pop tune that really takes off in the chorus, with enough joie de vivre and romantic allusion in the verses to make you suspect James had fallen hard for one or these burly sirens (nonsense; James has a lovely wife he adores). What it really does is celebrates those women who celebrate themselves in the somewhat unconventional but incredibly admirable fashion, mashing each other into the boards. Actually, for those of you who are of a more delicate nature, the idea probably seems repugnant, but I assure you, this song will make a believer of you.
I read a review before writing mine–which I rarely do, for personal reasons–that compared the opening tune, We Are Here For You, to Big Star* and Guided By Voices. Fair cop. I’m not an expert in either band, and that’s probably always been why James’ songs fascinate me, because I recognize the craftsmanship without knowing precisely what his immediate influences are. What I will say is, these are masterfully crafted tunes that I am convinced will stand the test of time. Really classics in the making. The state that the music industry is in pretty much guarantees that James will be an obscure favourite of mine for years to come, and this collection probably won’t change that, but wouldn’t it be sweet to imagine him scrounging up enough money to come play these songs in your hometown with his fairly-newly minted live band? I know I’d be there, if I could. Meanwhile, click the cover image at the top of the review, and you can do download and enjoy the songs yourself.
* the 70s power pop glitter rock group that wrote ‘In The Street’, the song made famous a decade or so ago as the theme song from That 70s Show.