Rebounding from both a messy extrication from Interscope and the departure of founding drummer Atom, Rocket recruited San Diego scene vet Mario Rubalcaba to fill in and whipped out the fierce and fine Group Sounds. Superchunk's Jon Wurster actually plays the skins on most of the tracks, as Rubalcaba (redubbed in Rocket-style Ruby Mars) only officially joined towards the end of recording, but either way the band sounds fully up to necessary events. "Straight American Slave" says that much at the start -- it's Rocket as all have come to know and love them, garage/punk/R&B grooves tightly wound as hell, horns ripping joyfully through the mix, call and response choruses, and Reis as always the at-once slick and raging frontman. From there it's barely a breath taken before launching into "Carne Voodoo," and the instant party atmosphere that Rocket know how to nail just so runs rampant. Having participated in a slew of fine solo efforts and projects all throughout 2000 like the Hot Snakes and the Sultans, hearing Reis take full charge with Rocket again seems like coming home to something especially great. Hints of other influences and approaches certainly crop up on the slightly calmer "S.O.S." and most notably with the marvelous closing track "Ghost Shark." A big woozy slow number with a bit of emotional bite, it makes for a perfect ending, with legendary producer Jim Dickinson adding piano. Those who want more of what Rocket does so well can't be disappointed, though. Sure to be future classics include "White Belt," which never seems to stop building up, the utterly anthemic "Heart of a Rat," and the no-less-so "This Bad Check Is Gonna Stick" -- with bells, even! Ten years since Rocket's first full-length, the sextet still sounds like they're on a live wire with an endless power source, as inspiring here as ever before.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett