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Walking on Air

ROONEYat the Roxy, October 5

For many in this chiefly teen-gal crowd, tonight was a done deal: Rooney are their still-accessible heartthrobs, the giggle-and-swoon guys who can do no wrong. And this hip ‘n’ handsome quintet with a modelingacting pedigree are walking on air: The Roxy is scalping-level sold-out (not the first time Rooney have stuffed the place), and they‘re about to head out on tour with the Strokes, arguably the fall’s hottest ticket.

But Rooney are far from just a boy band with guitars: They‘re deft songsmiths, coyly calm performers and savvy fashion conduits. Looking like animated photos from a Class of ’75 yearbook in perfectly grown-out hair and designer thrift-store threads, they‘re inspired by retro sounds that predate their fan base: the Beach Boys (“If It Were Up to Me”), the Cars (deliberately cheesy monophonic keyboards) and the Ramones (they cover “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” with Johnny Ramone in the house). Though dwelling deep in the shadow of Weezer, Rooney are dappled in new-wave brat-pack optimism and project from a fundamentally different standpoint than Rivers Cuomo’s crew: Cuomo never gets the girl, Rooney always do. This self-assurance is both alluring and deflating, as Rooney rest on their given charms and rarely exceed pedestrian passion levels, only drummer Ned Brower displaying any degree of abandon.

Though apparently lacking dues-paying credibility (they‘re already on a major label), Rooney have spent time with their instruments and competently re-create their recordings. Robert Carmine is a comfortable and convincing hair-in-the-eyes front man, Taylor Locke summons fluid six-string flavors and hook-making harmonies, while Brower’s bash ‘n’ crash swing and earnest enthusiasm are audio-visual lifesavers. Though fully familiar with countermelody and offering enough rhythmic landmarks for a fun ride, Rooney let little interfere with their reason for being: the pop song. Rooney have priceless inbuilt assets and do the hard stuff well, they‘re just lacking the revenge-of-the-nerds vitriol and off-the-leash energy that could elevate their heartstring-yanking material into something irresistibly endearing.


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