I remember the first time I listened to Never Trust A Happy Song, and immediately realized I had discovered a fantastically creative new band. Five years after Grouplove’s smashing debut, one of RARAs Farm’s 2011 Albums of the Year, the Los Angeles quintet is poised to release their third album, Big Mess, which is bringing back some of those same warm feelings.
Spreading Rumors Album Review
If you’ve seen any of my past Grouplove reviews, you’ll recall that they’re at the top of my list of upcoming artists. Their breakthrough debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, was in our Top 5 Rock Albums of 2011, and their live show has been great both times that I’ve caught them.
I’ve been anxious to hear what they have to offer on their follow-up release Spreading Rumors. Would it be the next step in their evolution as a rock solid artist, or the dreaded Sophomore slump. As it turns out, it’s a little of both.
The first track, “I’m With You” starts with a gratuitous 2:00 extended musical intro before melding into a fairly lame by their standards Vampire Weekend-esque offering which is quite frankly probably the worst song they’ve offered to date. Certainly an ominous start to their second full-length offering.
Fortunately, the tenor of the album takes a 180 degree turn on the very next track, “Borderlines And Aliens,” which felt like a nice extension of the fine music the band proffered on Never Trust a Happy Song. The guitar riff in this one is addictive; accompanied by strong vocal trade-offs from Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper, it’s a raucous rocker, and a song that should have kicked off the album.
“Ways To Go” is the sweetly saccharine first single from the album. It’s a keyboard and drum machine driven guilty pleasure. The keyboards are simple, yet simply addictive and the boy-girl vocal trade-offs perfectly harmonious. “Raspberry” is my choice for best single offering on the album. It’s an excellent, well-balanced track that highlights what the band does best: strong vocals, powerful drums, driving bass and slick guitar work; and it’s catchy as hell.
One of my favorite tracks was “Sit Still” which strayed nicely from the keyboard driven cuts that dominate Spreading Rumors. Plenty of acoustic guitar and superb drumming from Ryan Rabin carry this song and make it one of the most diverse offerings on the album.
On one of the band’s few offerings that is not powered by Zucconi’s voice, Hannah Hooper takes a turn in the spotlight. “Didn’t Have To Go” nicely spotlights Hooper’s wide vocal range, and through two albums is the best showcase for her talented voice,
“What I Know” and “News To Me” are two other strong tracks that nicely spotlight the band’s under-emphasized guitar playing ability, and “Shark Attack” is a fun quirky cross between Surf Punks and The Go-Gos.
Is it as good as their debut? No, but there aren’t many recent albums that are. Spreading Rumors has a handful of mediocre tracks but it also offers a nice selection of excellent offerings. Check it out and let us know what you think.
Grouplove Philadelphia Concert Review
I recently found myself obligated to make a trip to Philadelphia. Typically not a preferred destination, this time I was thrilled to be going once I realized that Grouplove was taking their Seesaw Tour to the city on the same night.
The City of Brotherly Love might just be the most inaccurate nickname ever. Philly is generally not a friendly place. Their sporting venues are dangerous places, their drivers are rude, politicians are sketchy… You get the picture, but there’s one very notable exception. These miscreants know how to rock. For decades, Philadelphia has been a city that rocks, birthing such stellar acts as The Hooters, The A’s, and Cinderella. In addition, the city is a favorite tour stop for all of the iconic names in rock and roll. On this night, they got to witness some future icons.
Philadelphia rock music fans are fantastic, and they make every show in the city just a bit more special than in most other locales. I had caught Grouplove last fall at Florida’s Next Big Thing festival and loved their energy and charisma, not to mention their music, but I was truly excited to see them in a rock ‘n roll city like Philadelphia. They did not disappoint.
On this tour, the talented quintet are playing two shows in each city; night one, a raucous rock affair and night two (this night) a more laid back acoustic show. I was thrilled to be able to secure a ticket for the acoustic night, because these five are superbly talented and creative, and I was anxious to witness the different spin they’d offer on their unique blend of pop rock.
The sold out venue, Underground Arts, in the industrial Callowhill part of town, was an excellent backdrop for the set. After a nice warm-up set from up-and-coming Australians The Rubens, the electricity in the crowd was palpable. With fog drifting from the rafters, front man, Christian Zucconi took the stage to a loud ovation. He slid behind the piano for an unaccompanied solo as his band mates joined him for a slick version of “I’m With You.” From there, they kicked into “Itchin’ On A Photograph,” and the party was on.
If this night was the more mellow acoustic show, I can’t imagine the previous night’s fervor at Union Transfer. The band just oozes energy and offers non-stop superb, fun rock music. The set was maybe the slightest bit toned down; we saw the keyboards eschewed for piano as an example, but it was still a rollicking good time, and a nice night to showcase the band’s talent.
At different times in the night, we saw lead singer / whirling dervish, Hannah Hooper, drummer Ryan Rabin, and Zucconni slide behind the piano. Phenomenally talented guitarist Andrew Wesson, took a turn behind the drums, and bass player Sean Gadd took lead vocals on several songs. But, most of the focus was directed to Zucconi and Hooper. They complement each other fantastically, often deftly trading off boy/girl vocals, all the while appearing to be having an absolute blast.
Aside from their musical talent, these guys all sing extremely well, which resulted in unusually crisp five person vocals at numerous times throughout the night.
There truly wasn’t a soft spot in the entire set, where we were able to enjoy numerous fun twists:
- “Chloe” – Was introduced by Rabin and offered our first chance to see Gadd drop his bass and deliver lead vocals on a powerful, fun tune that had the crowd in a frenzy.
- “Close Your Eyes” – Practically in mid-sentence, Zucconi began to howl, the crowd eagerly joined in, feeding nicely into the opening of this softer offering.
- “Ways To Go” – I was wondering what they’d do with their current keyboard driven hit, and they offered a great spin. Rabin on piano, Wessen behind the drums, Gadd on bass, and Hooper and Zucconi killing the fun vocal duet.
- “Cruel and Beautiful World” – Tender vocals, and phenomenal guitar work from Wessen. Just beautiful to listen to (wish I had recorded this one).
- “Getaway Car” – featured an xylophone solo, and Gadd again on vocals.
- “Tongue Tied” – Another fun party, this one had the crowd singing along perfectly, and sounding fantastic.
- “Lovely Cup” – the entire crowd danced to this one, which spotlighted Gadd’s superb bass.
- “Philalalaladelphia” – Yeah, it’s not a real song, but the night before, they wrote two lines while hanging out in Rittenhouse Square. It was silly stuff, but damn if they didn’t turn it into a three minue crowd infused party. Only in Philalalalaladelphia!
In between, there were plenty of deep cuts, ample representation from all three of the band’s releases, a nice cover and creative alternate versions. An hour and a half of fun stuff in a lovely, loving atmosphere.
Follow Us on Twitter or Like our Facebook t0 receive alerts. Here are the photos, not great, but some decent shots: Grouplove photo album from this show. Also, here are some older photos to fill your needs Grouplove at The Big Ticket
(see the full setlist below)
I’m With You
Itchin’ On A Photograph
Close Your Eyes
Ways To Go
Cruel And Beautiful World
Love Will Find You (cover)
I was intrigued by this band the first time I heard their quirky Alt-Rock hit “Colours.” It’s a catchy tune that immediately grabs your attention with the unique and edgy vocals of Christian Zucconi and a memorable chorus. I was expecting an album packed with similar songs, but “colour” me surprised, as it is a very diverse collection of mostly excellent songs.
The album, Never Trust A Happy Song kicks off with a cool handclap intro to “Itchin’ On A Photograph,” and bounces across the spectrum with a bunch of clever, original, happy pop tunes. It’s good stuff for the most part and definitely worth a listen. The quintet is clearly taking chances on this album; there’s no cookie cutter recipe for success here. They throw out a bunch of stuff, lots of different sounds and approaches, and although they’re not all perfect, this album is packed with excellent tracks.
The first four cuts are all mainstream Alt-Rock tunes, with “Colours” and “Itchin’ On a Photograph” the two with potential to get the most AltNation-like airtime. But, the album grinds to a halt on the aptly titled “Slow.” Not a bad tune, but it belongs somewhere else on the album. The next few songs are back along the happy vein, “Naked Kids” is a fun ode to adolescent fun, and “Spun” is a catchy tune with a great ukulele intro, another nice surprising nugget on an album packed with them! Then, it’s another trip down the roller coaster for “Betty’s a Bombshell.”
The next two back-to-back tracks are my favorites on the album. “Chloe” is a fantastic song. Absolutely fun – a blast to listen to, and one of my top 2011 discoveries. It’s got a bit of a rockabilly sound and features powerful drumming from Ryan Rabin, the son of uber-talented Trevor Rabin. “Love Will Save Your Soul” is another great track, and spotlights Hannah Hooper’s superb vocals. Along with “Colours,” these two are the highlights of the album.
As the album winds down, the last few cuts continue to highlight the band’s diversity, “Cruel and Beautiful World” offers Zucconi’s strongest vocals and great harmonies from Hooper and the rest of the band. It is a beautiful song, and destined to be a soundtrack staple for years to come. On this song and throughout, Ryan Rabin’s production is fantastic.
I have to give the band credit. They’re talented and they’ve experimented a bit here – and it works. There are a few misses, but for the most part, this is a strong and deep album that features a handful of great songs, and a few more that are destined to grow on you over time. Buy the album; just rearrange the songs on your playlist.