We’re living in a weird time in pop music. Electric guitars are forbidden, unless they’re employed ironically or sarcastically. Positivity is replaced by empowerment ballads that exhort you to embrace the fact you’re a weirdo/loser instead of inviting you into some sort of brotherhood of weirdo/loserdom. Our pop icons have always been kind of self-centered, but they used to invite us to join them in their swinging, psycho parties. Today, they get off on just telling you about their swinging, psycho parties that, incidentally, you’re too much a weirdo/loser to be a part of. Perhaps worse than any of those, we as the audience accept that and are cool with the separation that has never seemed as separate as it does right now.
All is not lost, however. There are still outposts of guitar pop out there, but they are farther to the fringes than they used to be and you have to work more to hear them. Once you do, you appreciate that they haven’t been stricken completely from view. One of those bands that still believe in the ethic is Vegas With Randolph.
On the band’s latest, Rings Around The Sun, there is a sense of invitation even when the songs are personal (“Cool Things”), or somber (“Broadway”), or even socially commenting (“Everybody Wants An Atom Bomb”). The kickoff track, “You Set The World On Fire” is virtually a love letter to science, but it is also an ode to aspiration, and carefully keeps from being a dull history lesson packed as a poppy/punky anthem.
And that is the secret sauce that makes not just Rings Around The Sun but the band Vegas With Randolph unique right now. Rather than hit you between the eyes with isolation in the guise inclusion, they actually are including you in. “Snow Day” could have been a melancholy frozen slog, as so many ‘cold weather’ songs have been over the decades, but this one stays on point and on theme. We like snow days, it says. We enjoy them. This isn’t us trying to hit you with reverse psychology. Sincerity, it turns out, is a hell of a hook.
I suppose that’s what I appreciate most about Rings Around The Sun. It is genuine feel-good pop as opposed to we-really-don’t-care-what-you-feel pop. Until we make this particular go ’round the horn and get back to a state where fun is encouraged again, reminders such as these are most appreciated.
You can find the new album at the band’s website: http://vegaswithrandolph.com/