Rococode – Guns, Sex & Glory – Album Review

So, it turns out this is not the hard-edged NC-17 collection of gangsta rap tales from da streets I was expecting. That’s what I assumed upon reading the album title, Guns, Sex & Glory. What else could it be, right? Assumptions are dangerous things.

I have to admit, I hadn’t heard a whisper about Rococode before diving into their debut release Guns, Sex & Glory. That’s not to say this is the four-piece’s first foray into making music, far from it – co-founders Laura Smith (a former member of Said The Whale) and Andrew Braun (who recently wrapped up a two-year tour with Hannah Georgas) met in jazz school approximately six years ago and began collaborating as LAB; Shawn Huberts and Johnny Andrews were Tegan & Sara’s rhythm section for five years. Together, along with production help from Mother Mother’s Ryan Guldemond, the group has created a very well-balanced and masterfully polished collection of sweet pop music. I’m having trouble figuring out why it’s called Guns, Sex & Glory

What I’m not having trouble doing is falling head over heels in love à la high school crush with Laura Smith’s sugary yet always commanding voice; especially on “Ghost II”, where she’s sadly and sweetly telling me to “take all that you want from me / I’ve nothing left, lies or regrets / and steal all that’s been stolen from me / I’ve nothing left, I’m all but dead”… She is talking to me, right?… right?! I instinctively want to give her a hug and say… well, exactly what Andrew’s saying to her – “You’re not alone.” A driving kick drum beat and haunting chants tie this short (1:48) number together beautifully.

I was just about to criticize how the “Concentrate On Me” and “Concentrate On You” tracks (1 and 8, respectively) are pretty much throwaways, but I just heard them again and… I’d like to keep them now. The former succeeds in bending my ear and making me listen to what I’m hearing, giving me a hint of the power-pop to come; the latter snaps its fingers and regains my complete attention later on. It works. “TINA” is another memorable number and makes it easy to visualize the band shoo-bee-dooing the night away as a ‘50s prom band.

This album didn’t hook me after just one listen, which I found bizarre; isn’t pop supposed to burrow itself deep into my brain right away like a jingle? And if it doesn’t, does it fail as pop? Nope. It’s during the third and fourth (and now many more) front-to-back listens that I bought in. Perhaps that’s due to the truly impressive production showcased on this album. All the sounds here are just right. Nothing drowns out or is dwarfed by anything else. It really is a pleasure to listen to. Kudos.

Just when I thought I had Rococode figured out, the title track slowly sneaks in and closes out the album. “Guns, Sex & Glory” is a hell of a conclusion – a bizarre, worrying, and gloriously restrained piano piece that reminds me of something an unplugged, painfully vulnerable Thom Yorke would do. Really? This? This is the title track, all quiet and freaky – at the end? I don’t get it. I really do think I’m missing something… But, at this point, I don’t really care, because that last tune has become one of my favourites, I’m bopping around to “Blood” like it ain’t no thang, and I’m slapping my thigh and belting out “The world’s on fire!” (“Weapon”) in my living room. Maybe I should draw the blinds. Ah, whatever. This album makes me happy.

Check out Rococodewhen they get back home to Vancouver on April 4 to play the Electric Owl. They’ll also be in Victoria on April 6 at the Lucky Bar. In the meantime, go to rococode.com and have a listen to the tasty, multi-coloured, candy-coated stuff that is Guns, Sex & Glory. Peace.