RPM Band Challenge: RPM vs. Rosy Overdrive

IF A JOB is worth doing, it's worth doing wrong. Brilliantly wrong. Spectacularly wrong. So wrong that all paradigms of quality and junk, of good and bad must be reconfigured to take into account such a perfect mistake. Competence is overrated. If it weren't for serendipitous flaws in our genetic code somewhere along the evolutionary path, we hominids wouldn't have thumbs and no one would even be able to hold a guitar pick. (Dear science people: Please don't write in to dispute my claims regarding natural selection. I'm speaking figuratively here--poetically, if you will--and anyway, I'm right.)

Granted, competence is a boon when it comes to heavy machinery or surgery or the amorous arts. But too often our drive to competence is an unconscious desire to keep our faceless bureaucratic society spinning greasily on its axis. The SA clerk who refuses to ring up your order correctly, the pedestrian who decides in mid-Hennepin that you should be in no more hurry to get past him than he is to get to the curb, the Qwest receptionist who puts you on hold so she can finish her game of Minesweeper--each is taking part in the revolution against rote efficiency. It's a pretty slapdash revolution, granted, in that it creates a counter-urge to competence. This leads to folks bragging about the accuracy of their checkbook balance, their ability to parallel park without scuffing their tires, or their knack for writing straightforward Modern Rock songs.

Which brings us to Minneapolis's Rosy Overdrive, the members of whom I hope aren't cringing after such a far-from-promising intro. Actually--sorry, guys, I guess you'd better cringe. I say sorry because this isn't the part of the job I relish. The four members of Rosy Overdrive seem like nice enough guys. Then again, the guys in Toto seemed like nice guys too, and you know where nice guys finish. (Well, actually Toto won a Grammy, and that one guy made it with Rosanna Arquette, and they were the backup band on Thriller, and they probably earned wads of cash, and only the drummer died from a cocaine overdose, so I guess being in Toto isn't such a damnable fate after all, is it?)

Oh, wait, I remember my point--despite all that good stuff, Toto got bad reviews. I know most people out there think reviews mean nothing, but please excuse me for claiming otherwise--I've got a professional interest, you know. And Rosy Overdrive did ask for this review--they've been making ample use of my e-mail account since long before this contest was announced.

I caught them in a half-filled Cabooze two Thursdays ago, having heard lots of Foo Fighters comparisons floating around. And, within two songs, I determined that these comparisons say less about Rosy Overdrive than about the fact that there are a truckload of people out there who mistake .38 Special for the Foo Fighters. And maybe they're right. The same problem that afflicts Dave Grohl's band affects the large-caliber Special and the Rosys: They behave as if the ability to order riffs and chord progressions and rhythms in established and acceptable patterns--that is, to write a well-made song--is an achievement of the first magnitude.

Make no mistake, this is rock as reassurance, everything in its right place, with just a little jolt of emotional propulsion to keep things alive. In that, it's not charmless, though the coda to "Pick up the Phone" does remind me of those 1-900-GIRL-TALK commercials on USA network late nights. Shifting from "Till you're here with me" to "Are you hearing me?" is not really a play on words, and it's bad enough to begin a song with "Hello, do you come here often?" Merely compounding the offense is the line that follows, "Hello, did I see you in my dreams last night?" The band's only cover, aside from a quick snippet of "Jessie's Girl" that hints at their true (and I'm not saying bad; it's a great song) roots was a rendition of "Day Tripper" that inexplicably left out the signature riff.

Rosy Overdrive are certainly no worse than any major-label product that gets grifted my way. Sean Sauder on drums and Tom Enroth on bass hook into a solid rhythm section. Frontman Dan Lemmenes, dressed in a loose-fitting button-down shirt on top of a tee, has what's commonly referred to as a good voice: He hits all the notes, he never indulges in the gargled intensity desperate hacks pass off as soul, he radiates sincerity. (Though I do wish he wouldn't pronounce "me" so that it rhymes with "say.") And guitarist Jeff Rutland plays solos worthy of Steve Lukather. He was the guitarist for Toto. Maybe Rosy Overdrive have got a Thriller in them after all. All they need is Michael Jackson.

 

To request a live-concert review under the RPM Band Challenge send pertinent info (band lineup, CV, show date, tax returns) to:kharris@citypages.com.

 
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