The term “retro” gets tossed around like a skin-tight, poorly embroidered, permanent-press bowling shirt in the washing machine of pop culture. But in the case of the Rants, retro is a subconscious theme, an impression, an abstraction. It’s a journey back to the preironic era when people actually got down at rock shows — or the roller rink — and left the chin-stroking and passive head-nodding to the nerdy music critics (oh, how our precious irony has degenerated). Whatever you’re into, whoever you are, the message is to Get Back Into It! The medium: harmonized, kick-your-ass, smack-you-upside-the-head kitsch rock that’s twice as infectious as Ebola or mad cow disease and the Rants won’t even damage your intestines.
The title track opens up with the aforementioned desire to make you get back into it. “Dogs are Barking” displays The Rants’ lyrical prowess with declarations such as “I headed out west, tried to rearrange/I sold my best cowboy shirt for a burrito and some change/Living with hookers, thugs and toilet seats/Drank so much whiskey, thought that it was drinkin’ me.” “Hell or High Water” has falsetto lyrics like Brian Wilson might have written in rehab atop droning chord progressions reminiscent of the Velvet Underground. “Dance Craze” is a driving hip-shaker that reels you into doing crazy dances such as “The Fisher” till you catch “a keeper” (John Waters, if you’re reading this, I’ve found your next sound track).
For anyone who’s ever seen the Rants perform live, this album seems a tame complement — and that’s only because in person they appear to be possessed by the spirits of Buddy Holly, Marvin Gaye and Joey Ramone. The sounds here are raw and scantily produced a la early Pavement, yet the mood is something like the Modern Lovers on Prozac. And it’s sooooo good.
The Rants perform at detroit contemporary Sunday, Sept. 23 with the Sunshine Six.
E-mail Robert Gorell at [email protected].