At the Cinema

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At the Cinema is an unexpected comeback that yields less-than-expectable results. The German group Rousseau had released three albums of syrupy neo-prog in the 1980s. Fourteen years after their last (Square the Circle), they re-formed and recorded this fourth opus. It is as if time stood still; nothing has really changed: the friendly melodies; the macho, romantic lyrics; and the hesitation between synth-heavy neo-prog and AOR-friendly rock à la Foreigner or REO Speedwagon. The track list alternates between mid-tempo instrumentals and songs. Singer Jörg Schwarz has a nice voice, not powerful enough to match the rock stars he emulates, but exempt of irritating features (that's already something). In "Back in These Arms" the group tries an American flavor that hints at Tom Petty. Hardly convincing, it nevertheless provides variety in an otherwise very homogenous album. Despite its lack of character, At the Cinema would be a decent enough offering if it weren't for the musicianship. The rhythm section is surprisingly weak. Drummer Ali Pfeffer and bassist Dieter Beermann struggle to synchronize their efforts. The slower songs contain uneven hi-hat work and sloppy drum fills, while the rare moments calling for a minimum of syncopation limp around in a pitiful way. As a result, the album sounds amateurish in addition to accumulating too many post-Pink Floyd rock clichés.

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