Score: 3.5/5 stars
“No one man should have all that power” was Kanye’s ode on the strange and beautiful statement of blackness “Power,” made even stranger by the recent publication of his plans to run for presidency. Roommate, on Make Like, sound like a band afraid of having too much power.
Of course, they are good enough to write about, because as was with the case with this album’s predecessor Guilty Rainbow, they strap on a pair of extra-industrial “influence” goggles for each project they do. They are, as they say, “well grounded.” And to top it off, for Make Like, the influences are not only valid, but actually interesting, completely original — basically a Smiths faux-jazz sense mixed with pop, but buffered with these booming, elliptical basslines that are hypnotic in their rhythmic nesting, and in how their appearances are thrown mischievously in, out of nowhere.
So what we have, clearly, in songs like opener “People on Screens,” is a dysfunctional marriage between band, and songwriting muse. Gillian Lisee and Sam Wagster embody a rhythm section that punches you in the gut with hard-contoured groove, the type of thing, albeit, that does have the ability to strike somewhat as a blueprint. And it’s when the methodical, cautious chorus melodies of singer Kent Lambert sidle in that the project does seem overly blueprinted — not enough of a jam, and too much of a science experiment. Lambert sings in a west-of-Chicago heavily Caucasian drawl, which was pulled off by his genuine, gripping narratives of much of Guilty Rainbow, but which often feeds what sounds like a repeat on this one.
And it’s not so much that Lambert and his rhythm section sound mismatched with each other, it’s more that perhaps Lambert has shouldered TOO MUCH of the creative burden — this song sounds like it was rendered his just by the fact that he is the lead singer, not that he had that intense of a thing to say on it.
We live now in a day and age where we seem to be getting away from rock a little bit — I can tell you this site’s year-end list is going to be very hip-hop-dominated, and we’re seeing pervasive sproutings of entertaining jazz bands across the U.S. like The Budos Band and Rational Discourse. Roommate sound like a band with the potential to stand next to these lounge acts, and they certainly lack the lead singer to inspire in pop/rock realms, though he clearly still believes in the whole thing. This much is evidenced by what is really a commendable effort, here, on paper: letting Gillian Lisee’s bass wield a sound scape chisel, and giving Sam Wagster free reign on beat-chopping (his beats are nervous and complex, think Slint covering Tortoise). Lambert, however, sounds like a lead singer still lamenting the world, and not, sufficiently, celebrating the great band he has behind him.