“But, I believe in rock ‘n’ roll / Moving fast to save my soul,” sings Ivan Howard, lead singer of the Raleigh, N.C. based band the Rosebuds, on the group’s debut album Make Out. Yeah, he does. The purist Howard and his band mate, Kelly Gordon (drummer Jonathon Bass has recently replaced one-time skins man Billy Alphin, who plays with another Raleigh band Ashley Stove), revel in Dick Clark’s kind of rock ‘n’ roll: the clean-cut, danceable music the kids just love.
Packed with killer-sized hooks, carefree drums and slight, three-chord progressions, Make Out is a worthy facsimile of classic American rock and vintage British pop with a little indie-cool thrown in for kicks. Prog-rock this ain’t, but, really, when was the last time Mars Volta inspired the Twist?
What works best about Make Out is the inherent sincerity of the songs, their complete lack of irony. By diffusing the anger and cynicism that has come to dominate the genre for years, the Rosebuds prove it is still possible to make earnest and fun rock music in less than three-minute packages, measured in quarter time.
Take for instance the infectious hook in “Kicks in the Schoolyard,” a rollicking nod to adolescent fisticuffs that is entirely void of violence. “Because the kids are doing kicks out in the schoolyard / And the girls are living rock ‘n’ roll a little too hard.” Killer, but do you really think anyone is going to get hurt? Also, while Howard’s claim of “Gonna bet I get one baby” in “Boys Who Love Girls” is forward, its sentiment is still more akin to Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” than Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”
From start to finish, Make Out is a refreshing, solid and unabashedly fun debut. It makes no claims to be the Next Best Thing, but instead promises good things to come from this pop-perfect Raleigh band. Like the aforementioned Buddy Holly, the Rosebuds know when to leave well enough alone, and that alone deserves our attention.
The band wears the “less is more” sentiment on its sleeves, and thankfully so: the end result is unmistakable. By focusing their attention on a single idea, Howard and Crisp show the upside to writing no nonsense, well-structured pop songs. “Drunkards Worst Nightmare,” “Waiting for the Carnival” and “What Can I Do” are the pitch-perfect stars of the album and dance in the face of promiscuity, heartache and troubled relationships, respectively.
If this is the kind of rock ‘n’ roll the Rosebuds have in mind, sign me up. I can believe in it too.