THE ROOKS - A Wishing Well

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I KNEW THIS ONE would become collectable - just took longer than I thought. One of the most beautiful albums, if not THE most beautiful, in the power pop genre. I truly believe that. GOing for $40 and up n ow.

Power pop is arguably party music -- generally, the music tries to distill a good-time vibe into concise, smooth, three-minute nuggets of sunshine. And if power pop is party music, then the Rooks would be the music for every classy wine and cheese party in the world. Considered by many to be one of the finest power pop bands of the '90s, the Rooks have constructed a very distinct and finely tuned sound unlike almost any other band part of the scene. A Wishing Well is the Rooks' second full-length release and is considered by many power pop fans to not only be the band's best, but also one of the genre's finest releases of the decade. Here's why: from start to finish, almost no comparisons can be drawn to anything else ever done. The music has a timeless, craftsman-like quality; and while at first A Wishing Well may not quite stand out, it only grows in stature upon repeated listens. While the "power pop" label doesn't seem to fit this band all that well -- their somewhat cerebral and almost bizarre pop seems deserving of its own genre -- this release is a must-have for all fans of the genre.

It IS a BRILLIANT album but I hvae share this review on Amazon from 14 years ago. People crack me up. He gives it 3 stars(it's a 5-star album for most power pop people, for the record)...but, man, the guy spends a LOT of time writing this review. I mean, " think it's a 3-star record, write your review and move one. Don't spend some much time pondering convincing yourself it's actually better than you are rating it...". Anyway, it's a really good review even if the writer is 'conflicted' to convince himself otherwise.

"Amongst the pop recordings I own, The Rooks have a pretty distinctive sound, if not style. The most immediately noticeable thing about the Rooks is that lead singer Michael Mazzarella's voice does not fit the modern "industry standard" of pop vocalists. Generally, pop vocalists are tenors with choirboy tone and a wide expressive range (Jason Faulkner, McCartney, etc.). Mazzaralla's voice tends to fall in a lower range (maybe Peter Garrett with more control) with a style somewhere between Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan. Does it work? Generally, I think so, but it may take a little getting used to. The other two Rooks, Kristen Pinnell (lead/melody guitars) and Patrick Yourell (drums), are also integral to the sound of the band. In particular, I think that Yourell's drumming is virtuosic within the bounds of the style that he is playing in.

Notice that there is no official Rooks bass player. I get the feeling that there is a story behind this, but I don't know it.
The songs are quite good, although not as infectious as the recent work released by Fountains of Wayne, Jason Faulkner, or Aimee Mann. In their writing, the Rooks focus on the tradition of American pop music, rather than British, and they generally use very accessible diatonic chord progressions (I-IV-V, for those of you who know what that means). The result is a folk-ish, americana flavor that may not sit well with those of us spoiled to the adventurous harmonic work of Jellyfish and The Grays. However, in their production and arranging we have some obvious and well-executed nods toward the Beatles' studio period. "Penny Lane" style trumpet solos (as well as othe symphonic instruments), recorder intros, pristine backup vocals, melodic playing, and other tasty bits give "A Wishing Well" a familiar polish and distinctive flavor that belies the simplicity of the songs. The overall effect is one of a sort of blessed innocence that seems touched by inspiration periodically.
In short, look at the album cover closely. It reflects the "vibe" of the album quite effectively.

A tricky aspect of pop music is the lyrics. Because the tradition is so long and has been done so well by so many, the standards for cleverness, accessibility, and singability have become impossibly high. The Rooks have good, even poignant lyrics, but I'm not sure if I would call them clever by modern standards. One gets the feeling Mazzarella is sharing thoughts about some very private biographical experiences. This is good because the songs come off as very warm and inviting, but at the same time they lack a universality that makes then easy to relate to our own experiences. However, I do have a soft spot for bands that are willing to forego lyrics for the sake of emphasizing a melodic line. There are lots of "doo-doo-doo's" and "na-na-na's" that hint at the importance of melody to the Rooks' compositions. It takes a good songwriter to know when to shut up and sing, so to speak.

Some pop is really good to listen to in the car really loud with the windows rolled down while you drum on the steering wheel and sing along. Some is good to listen to when friends are over, and others force you to sit down with the libretto and follow along. I would say that The Rooks are best listened to on a Sunday afternoon while doing some housework, or late in the evening while you surf the internet reading reviews. You will probably not put this CD in against your will because these songs are burrowing into your mind and you feel that you may go mad if you don't just give it a listen. "A Wishing Well" will most likely provide a consistently pleasant listen again and again and will definitely grow on you as you find more hidden treasures."