Calling the World
This Los Angeles power pop band let four years pass between their successful self-titled debut and this follow-up, recording and scrapping two albums in the interim. If that sounds like a band with an identity crisis, it’s apparent from listening to Calling the World that they haven’t really found one yet. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting ideas around the edges of this breezy 12-song collection.
Led by Robert Schwartzman, the younger brother of actor and former Phantom Planet drummer Jason, Rooney has enough musical chops to come up with hook-y guitar pop singles like the title track and the bouncy, nagging, riff-driven “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” They’re also sly enough to ape George Harrison on “What For” (the band thanks Dhani Harrison in the liner notes) or throw a faux prog rock-meets-Queen breakdown into “I Should’ve Been After You.” The latter tune is also notable for a rare appearance by erstwhile former Jellyfish drummer/singer (and noted Queen fanatic) Andy Sturmer.
Unfortunately, unbelievably trite, seemingly un-ironic lyrics and generic love ’em and leave ’em swagger drag Rooney down all too often. “And I don’t know what to do / Everyday I want to be with you,” Schwartzman sings on one of the more interchangeable rockers here. The lyric content doesn’t get much deeper. He puts the swagger to better use on “Don’t Come Around Again,” a more interesting rocker that sounds like something the great Nova Scotia band Sloan might come up with. String-laden set closer “Help Me Find a Way” is a nice departure. And “Are You Afraid” trots out the faux prog rock again, combining it with early ’80s new wave to come up with something likely to please pop geeks while confusing the teeny bopper girl fanbase they seem to be courting elsewhere.
Ultimately though, it’s hard to escape the nagging feeling that there are tons of other bands doing what Rooney is doing who have more to say and more interesting ways to say it.