Sam Roberts Band
[Rating: 4 stars]
“A rebel today is tomorrow’s tycoon,” sings Sam Roberts on “The Last Crusade.” When he delivers this line, perhaps he is predicting his own fate. The first single off Collider has everything a hit needs—a catchy chorus, a giant crescendo with horns blasting—and the entire album showcases well-constructed rock songs, quiet when they need to be and then loud once again.
“Let It In” has an infectious cowbell groove that would make Christopher Walken proud. Roberts deliveries his vocals with the sort of strut you want from your rock stars—“So ashes to ashes/Cheek to Cheek/She looks at me/My knees go weak.” By the time, the solo comes around, air guitar is necessary and head-bobbing is unavoidable.
If you want something more straight ahead, the Sam Roberts Band can do that, too. “I Feel You” is the heaviest song on the album, the guitar lines coming in on top of each other—one sounding like Black Sabbath, the next like a blind old bluesman—before all dropping away, leaving a lone fuzzed out groove. “Been walking straight/Been walking narrow,” Roberts sings. “Been shot through the eye by Cupid’s arrow/Don’t know if I’ve seen the real you/But I feel you.” The synth builds behind him; the tension mounts, and then those guitars come back, the listener thrust into the middle of the storm.
And in that moment, it’s hard to imagine a more fun place to be. And in that moment, it’s hard to imagine a more fun place to be. The duet with Land Of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell on “Longitude” feels natural and not forced as such mid-album pairings often do. “The only thing that tomorrow brings/Is that it will become today,” Roberts sings in a counterpoint to some of his lyrical ideas of love from earlier on Collider—“On a night full of whispering/Don’t let your hopes get carried away.” There are no knees going weak here; there is no Cupid’s arrow in flight towards its target. This is a more cynical take—“And we’re looking for a way out/Leaving the closest door.”
If Roberts and his band are destined to be the next big rock stars, it’s safe to say they will take their grind-it-out roots with them. “Streets of Heaven (Promises, Promises)” warns, “Just don’t forget where you came from/Don’t forget who you are/They’re all beating the same drum/You were playing guitar.” “Without A Map” is a gritty trip—“All the time I’ve wasted/All dreams I’m chasing/Leaving me behind/All roads I’m facing/All the days a racing/Just about to lose my mind.”
Sure sounds a bit like a certain New Jersey rocker who was born to run and also tackled the topic of the workingman’s plight, both before and after he made it big. Take that example to heart, Sam Roberts Band. Tycoon and rebel? If you do it right, you can be both.