Jonny Lives! | Get Steady (Eleven Seven)

cd_jonnyA few ballads even sneak in to shake up the tempo, which helps the flow of the album even if they aren't particularly memorable individually.

 

 

 

 

 

"It's a cliché/ Everything I say/ And all the things that we play/ Every single day." Those four lines could be used to describe probably 90% or more of the bands wandering the earth today, but few bands possess enough self-awareness to point it out for you like Jonny Dubowski and his band Jonny Lives! so graciously do on "Cliché." Sure, it's all been done before, but Jonny Lives! specializes in a brand of unadulterated, straight-ahead guitar rock that sounds refreshing no matter how many times you've heard it.

One thing that keeps the band's debut full length, Get Steady, from getting stale is that Dubowski and his cohorts like to keep things stirred up. The pull quote from the Village Voice on the CD case rather strangely defines the band as "post-Radiohead pop/rock," which is only in accurate in the literal sense that this album came out "post-" the last Radiohead album. Given that the band rose up from the scene on New York's Lower East Side, they do at times echoes the garage rock influence of fellow scenesters like the Strokes or, in particular, the Mooney Suzuki, whose speedy, R&B-influenced riffage is all over songs like "Diamonds & Roses" and "B-Side," but that doesn't quite nail it either. The vast majority of the songs present have a sunnier pop bent to them, as if you sucked all the California out of Rooney and plopped them down on the drearier coast. The poppier elements come to the fore on the Sloan-y classicist bent of "Love Conspiracy" and its Ben Kweller-ish follow-up "Something About It," and some rollicking, Beatles-esque bounce on the acoustic arrives in the form of "Breaking Down." A few ballads even sneak in to shake up the tempo, which helps the flow of the album even if they aren't particularly memorable individually.

Dubowski's voice adds just a bit of snarl to the sound of Rooney's Robert Carmine or Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, with just a hint of Strokes-ish distortion thrown in to cover up the rough spots (which the un-processed vox on closing track "Secret" prove are many). The instruments are all sharp and well-played, but it feels almost pointless to comment on them considering that the current band line-up (Christian Langdon on guitar, Jon Weber on drums, and White Light Motorcade's Tommy USA on bass) and the band that actually recorded this record (Weber on drums, Mikki James on bass, and Dubowski on pretty much everything else) are two different things entirely. As their name implies, Jonny Lives! is Jonny Dubowski's baby, and the music plays an even keeled supporting role throughout. Even guest appearances from some heavy-hitting boys from the neighborhood (Nick Valensi of the Strokes, Sammy James Jr. of the Mooney Suzuki, and Jody Porter of Fountains of Wayne) on "Cliché" does little to change the overall sound, though it is the album's most unabashedly fun tune. Get Steady isn't quite the garage rock animal its pedigree would imply, but a fun little rock n' roll record nonetheless. B | Jason Green

RIYL: Rooney, The Mooney Suzuki

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