With a name like Office, it’s appropriate that the Chicago-based quintet’s A Night at the Ritz seems to cover nothing but very familiar sounds. Office belongs alongside the countless contemporary bands that crowd the spectrum bookended by the Strokes and the Killers. But despite the tired-on-arrival sound of this follow-up to 2005’s self-released Q&A, the songs on Night at the Ritz do have a pulse. Little here extends beyond the well-trodden path of contemporary rock, but Office does hit a few high notes on its first record with James Iha, the ex-Smashing Pumpkin and co-founder of Scratchie Records. If there is someone who knows how to locate the link between blasé semi-hard rock and mass appeal, it would be Iha.
Office originated when frontman Scott Masson turned his artistic efforts from sculpture to music. After a move from London to the States shortly after the turn of the century, Masson formed the band with guitarist Tom Smith, bassist Allissa Noonan, drummer Erica Cornell and multi-instrumentalist/back-up vocalist Jessica Gonyea. The band’s genuine camaraderie comes across in a cheerful tempo, which is highlighted by the bouncy back-up vocals.
Masson’s straightforward guitar riffs, catchy verses and frequent diversions into falsetto make minimal impression through opening tracks “Oh My” and “If You Don’t Know by Now.” Office finds a big-band sound in “The Big Bang Jump!” In a fittingly ironic twist, “Paralyzed Prince” catches Masson altering his vocals to a Bono-esque swoon. The finale “Suburban Perfume” is a nostalgic ballad in which Masson reminisces about the flannel-clad grunge years.