I want to love rosewater’s So Long SoCal. I really do. Whenever someone tells me rock is dead, I often think to myself “Naa, it’s still very much alive. It’s just in someone’s basement now.” Rock belongs in the underground, literally and metaphorically, and rosewater is the kind of the band that is continuing such a long and debaucherous tradition. Whatever they lack in technical chops they make up for in raw, sloppy and passionate rock and roll bravado. The problem is that they don’t go far enough. The whole thing seems a little half-baked when it should have you ripped your ass off.
So Long SoCal is a hodgepodge of ’70s, ’90s and today. It’s kind of like if The Velvet Underground did tape recorder sessions with Guided by Voices and were fronted by the two singers from Tropical Fuck Storm. It’s gloriously and purposefully lo-fi and maybe it’s the huge amount of solitude we’ve all been subjected to, but it couldn’t come at a more perfect time. We don’t need high polished production right now; we need the ugliest sludge imaginable to reflect the kind of shit we’re living in. The band’s playing is so loose, they don’t sound like they’re playing in a basement at all but a drug den that’s just one floor up from the depths of hell. Vocalist/guitarist Blair Clark moans like he’s Iggy Pop melting into the floor. His spiky guitar riffs are the only thing keeping the songs and band from falling through the floorboards.
All the EP’s most noble qualities might insinuate that the band have released a rare, classic lo-fi album. This isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. There is a fine line between ragged expressionism and musical diarrhea. Though it’s easy to be charmed by rosewater’s devil-may-care attitude, one can’t help but wonder, on occasion, if they haven’t shat the bed completely. The biggest blunder is by the far the production on the vocals. Clark and singer/guitarist Leah Brooke sound like they are singing into Kleenex boxes. I have no earthly idea of what they are going on about! Brooke is often drowned out instead of sharing the mic, which is too bad, because when I can actually hear her, she seems to be the superior vocalist. I get they are trying to be raw, but in this instance, it’s just not working. At times, the vocals come off like a fly that snuck in through the window during recording; barely there but still enough to be irritating.
If you can get past the botched vocal job, there is still plenty to like about So Long SoCal. “405,” “Family,” and “ER” are incredibly catchy and well-structured, even if I’ll probably never be able to fully interpret their meaning. Oh well, they get the motor running and have me longing for the days of jamming in a crowded space with a bunch of sweaty ass musicians. Honestly though, this is one of those rare occasions where the crummy production values prove to be a detriment to a garage band. These are pretty good songs and would greatly benefit from just a little more care and craft. This could be a solid EP, but instead, it merely reaches the heights of a great demo. Sure, it’s a filthy, fast and fun demo, but still a demo, nonetheless.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*Edited by Dominic Abate