Leaving Rouge


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Leaving Rouge's first full album is trying to be a few things at once -- and there's no problem with that; the trick is simply to pull it off. There's actually a strong indication of classic rock groove right from the start of the opening "Skeleton Girls," but lead bandmember Sean Hoen -- the only one survivor of the earlier incarnations of the group -- has much more of an ear for mournful anthemics derived from the U.K. or a post-R.E.M. Athens. To his credit, though, this isn't lifeless "emo" as has now been popularized and dulled -- much like, say, the similarly inspired Smoking Popes, this is music of sweet desperation that hasn't forgotten how to be rushingly romantic instead of simply complaining. As compared with the more stretched-out and reflective sound of the earlier version of the group, everything here is much more direct, aiming for play on a radio station that might not exist but probably should. The moves are ultimately a bit familiar but Hoen and his new bandmates do their best to infuse the songs with the apocalyptic sensibility they clearly want, and at the album's best they find it winningly enough. Examples include the title track, with an arrangement that builds to excellent pay-off choruses, the absolutely killer ending of "Airports," and the energetic charge of "Chain Letters," but the majestic "Sleep Now Forever," with some absolutely gorgeous guitar figures in particular, is the pick of the album. If there's something odd about Elsewhere it might be its mix -- often it almost sounds like a muddy cassette-copy of a clearer master, or as if it should be in the background of a movie scene. It's not constant, though, and with time it sounds more like the artistic choice it was clearly meant to be.

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