Following two consecutive appearances on my year-end top ten albums list, Role Models are going for the hat trick with their latest and greatest effort Dance Moves. Releasing three albums in three years is a momentous feat in and of itself. It's all the more impressive that Rich Rags and company have managed to top themselves with each subsequent release. It would have been perfectly acceptable at this point for Role Models to still be resting on the laurels of 2015's The Go-To Guy. But thankfully, that is not what has occurred. With the support of its fans and the PledgeMusic platform, the London foursome set out to keep the music coming. On the heels of last year's remarkable Forest Lawn, the brand-new Dance Moves cements Rich's place in the top-tier of present-day rock songwriters. It's certainly a fine place to start if you're still unfamiliar with his formidable talents.
What I appreciate about Dance Moves is that it continues the growth of its two predecessors without losing sight of what Rich does best as a songwriter. He can still write a rocking pop song with the best of 'em, and he sure won't leave you wanting for strong melodies and memorable choruses. But on Dance Moves, he delivers his strongest and by far most varied collection of songs. I can genuinely say that every song sounds different. That makes the album really enjoyable because I look forward to each track and what it brings to the whole. No doubt, songs like "I Want More" and "Covered In Mistakes" are signature Rich Rags power pop tunes that I totally expected and was happy to hear. But what makes Dance Moves so satisfying is that the totally unexpected songs are among the best on the album. Sometimes bands will tack ballads onto the ends of records, but here "Obituary Writer" is so wonderful and essential to the feel of the album that it doesn't sound out of place in the track 4 position. Did you know that Rich could pull off snappy blue-eyed soul ("Feel Like Being Alone") or chic modern rock ("Empire State")? Me either! We probably all knew that Rich had a soft spot for radio-friendly '70s/'80s hard rock but might not have foreseen him indulging it on a Role Models recording. Yet he does exactly that with the 1-2 AOR punch of "Reach Me" and "The Night". I can't listen to the latter without imagining a packed arena full of people singing along to the chorus, cigarette lighters aloft.
I like that Dance Moves tells a story. In the words of Rich Rags, it follows "a binge weekend with someone who has a lot to forget (or remember)." Such a concept demands a particular range of emotions that this set of songs amply provides. Thus the album takes you from the quiet melancholy of "Evangeline" to the celebratory swagger of "Manette Street" to the raging angst of "Dance Moves" to the triumphant power of "The Meteor". Rich and the boys really went for it on this album, and their risks have been fully rewarded. This is a record that the band probably couldn't have made two or three years ago. With the help of some special surprise guests (like Rich Jones, Duncan Reid, and F & L favorite Kris Rodgers), Role Models have made an album that's their finest to date and without question one of this year's best. I recommend it not just to power pop and glam/punk fans but really to anyone who appreciates great music!