Pronto’s lineup reads like a roll call for experimental-leaning alternative-country acts. Their debut, All Is Golden, features Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco, Matt Lux of Iron and Wine, and Jim Becker of Califone, and the touring band includes members of Antibalas and Cat Power. Surprisingly, though, All Is Golden tends more toward straight-ahead soft rock than their collective pedigree would indicate.
Most of the attention surrounding Pronto centers on Jorgensen, as his main project is the most well known and he is taking up the role of frontman for this band. He fulfills the role adeptly, although his songwriting isn’t consistent enough to carry the band through a full album’s worth of songs. Too often, the band relies on tired tropes from the era of ’70s classic rock from which they take their inspiration.
“What Do You Know About You” is propelled by a piano part straight out of Randy Newman’s songbook, and it’s a prime example of Jorgensen’s hit-or-miss songwriting skills. While the song hints at the complex topic of self-knowledge, its language is too absurd to be taken seriously. During a dramatic slow-down during the bridge, Jorgensen sings, “Are you a fireman, who is working in women’s shoes? Are you a fisherman, who would rather be making shampoo?” While serious philosophical chin-scratching may not have its place in a pop song, it seems that Jorgensen could have addressed his topic in a way that doesn’t seem so outright silly.
Although much of the record is lackluster as far as songwriting goes, there are some standout tracks that are worth attention. The opening three tracks give the record a promising start. “Listen Lover” is a fuzzed-out, up tempo rocker that is well serviced by Jorgensen’s vocal delivery. The title track features a horn breakdown reminiscent of Steely Dan, and “Good Friends Have Gone” is a ballad about dying friendships that is quite poignant.
There’s nothing new in the musicianship on this album, and unfortunately, the lyrics aren’t arresting enough to carry the songs on their own merit. Overall, the influence of ’70s soft rock is all too apparent, but during the more inventive compositions, Pronto’s potential shows through. Hopefully they’ve internalized their influences with this debut, and their next record will be more of a progression of ’70s era AM radio than an homage to it.