After hearing the first few songs on Come to My Party, my roommate said, “Rusted Root is terrible.”
She would know. She’s an art major. She has an acute aesthetic sense. She listens to a lot of Sigur Ros.
However, my friend from the greater Pittsburgh area, Rusted Root’s hometown, has seen them live ten or twelve times. She describes it as the most aerobic activity that one who lives in rural Pennsylvania can engage in. The band can’t be all bad.
It’s hard to reconcile the Rusted Root of years past, the band who gave us “Send Me on My Way,” with the Rusted Root of 2002. They have lost a few members (although the drummer who used to harass my friend’s sister for dates is still around). They’re not exactly the dirty hippie outfit of yesteryear, either. The album art features a hippily dressed band of granola-heads, even if Michael Glabicki still has the coffeehouse goatee. There are several changes, however, much to the disappointment to this reviewer and her friends.
Coincidentally, my Pittsburgh pal is also an art major. Don’t I hang with the cool kids.
The toe-tapping arrangements and energetic rhythms of past Roots’ projects were the strength of their albums and the highlight of live shows. Listening to Welcome to My Party leaves one’s feet still and butt still glued to the chair. The bounce just isn’t there. Whether it’s the uninspired title track, or the uneven songs that follow, Rusted Root produces little joyful noise.
As a sextet with a strong sense of musicality and vocal harmonies, Rusted Root is a self-described near single organism. It’s no accident their aura reeks of patchouli incense and GORP. Lead singer and song-writer Glabicki’s warbly vocals and the plaintive background (on most tracks) sounds of Liz Berlin and Jenn Wertz, tell us about the “People of My Village” and ask “Why Cry?” The strong talents of the female vocalists have been more aptly utilized on previous records.
Yet another complaint vis-a-vis the old versus new Rusted Root is that the songs just aren’t distinct. Listening to the album from start to finish makes remembering the hook or chorus of a single song almost impossible. Not only does one refrain from dancing and singing along to any of the tracks, but one can’t even discern one song from the other.
It is difficult to separate Welcome to My Party from the context of earlier records, which have proven what the band is capable of. We simply expect more.