Monday, August 29, 2016

New Role Models album!

Role Models have done it again! I was just one of many reviewers to praise the band's 2015 long player The Go-To Guy. The acclaim for the album didn't surprise me one bit - especially given that it came largely from the handful of blogs, magazines, and sites that represent to me the finest taste in music. From the moment I first heard Role Models, I knew that Rich Rags was a special songwriting talent. And Role Models draw inspiration from so many different things that I love in music: the streetwise glamour of Hanoi Rocks and New York Dolls, the timeless punk/pop sensibilities of The Ramones and Generation X, the made-for-radio rock n' roll of Cheap Trick and KISS, and the straight-ahead heartland classicism of Tom Petty and The Replacements. The Go-To Guy was perhaps my most eagerly-anticipated album of last year, and it totally lived up to expectations. Humbled and inspired by all the positive reaction, Rich and the gang decided to get right back in the studio and create a follow-up. The record is called Forest Lawn, and it's out now with the help of a great many donations through Pledge Music. Like its predecessor, it does not disappoint!

The title Forest Lawn is a reference to the neighborhood in Calgary where Rich Rags grew up - and it establishes a loose theme for the album. Rags looks back to the good times of growing up in a multi-cultural neighborhood and how the discovery of punk and rock n' roll music looms so large in those memories. This is the sort of record you can put on as you crack open a beer and reminisce about the first time you heard some of your favorite bands - and who you might have been hanging out with at those moments. Rags has an innate gift for penning songs that tug at the heartstrings without needing to be grandiose or dramatic. His flair for sentiment, so crucial to the effectiveness of The Go-To Guy, continues to impress. While we can joke about the audience for real rock n' roll being a rapidly aging demographic, I want to believe that more than a few grown-ups of tomorrow will come of age pumping their fists to the chorus of "Radio" in the summer sun or singing along to "Wanted To Be Around" in their parents' basements. "Sleep Tight" ought to be mandatory listening for anyone who wants to understand what a great hook is all about. But while Rags specializes in the kind of timeless pop song that sounds like it could have come blasting from a real live radio in the late '70s or early '80s, Forest Lawn finds him doing far more than just revisiting the triumphs of the last album. And that is what ultimately makes it an even better record. The band tries everything from the furious Dead Boys/Stooges scorch of "Got No Time" to the epic horn-accompanied ballad "Bullshit Corner" to the tear-off-the-roof rock n' roll of "I Ain't Lucky" to the mellow sensitive guy rock of "Guest List". The more varied song selection brings to mind some of the great rock albums of the past - and we get a broader representation of what Role Models are really about. The band (Daniel Husayn on bass, Simon Maxwell on drums, Nick Hughes on guitar, Rags on guitar and vocals) is in fine form. And a whole slew of special guests (Steve Conte, Sami Yaffa, Chris Barry) make cool contributions.

I think most Role Models fans will agree that Forest Lawn is the band's best album yet. If you're unfamiliar with this band but love heavy guitars mixed with amazing melodic songwriting, you are hereby commanded to catch up with the last album and get this new one as well. The CD is available exclusively from Glunk Records - with a digital release via Amazon and iTunes coming next month. If it wasn't obvious already, Role Models are one of my favorite bands on the planet. Fingers crossed for another album next year!


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