The laziest thing a music critic can do when writing a review is to start tossing around casual comparisons and referencing similar artists as a substitute for legitimate criticism. Which is why Rooney and Calling the World, the band’s tribute album of new material, poses such a daunting challenge. Robert Schwartzman and crew stare back from their Rubber Soul-inspired album cover practically daring me not to comment upon their never-ending stream of musical references. I’ll give it a shot.
First, the good news: Like the band’s mostly engaging debut, Calling the World is choc-a-bloc full of hooks. Most of the twelve tracks are initially catchy. The bad news is that they evaporate immediately thereafter. Lead single “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” has a nifty guitar riff, but otherwise it’s rather forgettable.
Let’s see. What else. The production is very clean, I suppose. Schwartzman has a nice voice. That’s something.
Okay. Uncle. I call your bluff, Rooney. I have no choice but to break down the reference-o-rama that is Calling the World. “I Should Have Been After You” is an almost virtuoso piece of pop-music pastiche, cribbing bar by bar from Boston, Smile-era Beach Boys, ELO, Kansas, and the Young Rascals. “Are You Afraid” employs keyboards straight out of Bon Jovi’s “Runaway,” and “Paralyzed” is a Strokes redux.
It’s all pastiche, all referential all the time. An undeniable sunniness bolsters individual tracks, but the entirety of Calling the World exposes a Rooney that isn’t as playfully lyrical as Fountains of Wayne or quirkily charming as the Cars. The band is doubtful to become as popular as Weezer. In the end, Calling the World left me bored as hell.