THE ROMANTICS -- The Romantics (Nemperor JZ36273).
The Romantics, four pretty boys from Detroit's east side, will bring their mix of lightweight love songs and barely New Wave rock to the Cellar Door Thursday for what promises to be an energized revival of '60s English hit parade.
As second-generation Beatles, they've traded Nehru jackets for slick leather suits and moptops for the electric-shock hair of punkdom. It seems the Romantics grew up in Motown somehow yearning for Carnaby Street. On their first album, imaginatively called "The Romantics," each of the compositions is "romantic" only on the broadest sense and otherwise charged with power pop patterned after Britain's supergroups.
"Tell It to Carrie," a song first released on Bomp records (a New Wave label in California), reappears on "The Romantics" but leaves the definition of New Wave wide open. Spoken to a trusted confidant, the words are sincere and the pace is low-speed rock. The best part is a line cut right from the Seventies: "I feel I'm getting too dependent." Not quite poetic, but vaguely soul-searching.
"Keep In Touch" is a variation on a breaking-up theme, sung with feeling plus a bit of punk humor. There are New Wave touches here -- stutters, derisive lyrics and sour notes to punctuate guitar riffs. But more frequently the Liverpool sound comes through. You can't fail to detect the Fab-Four echo on "Girl Next Door" ("You're too pretty, not too sweet") and "What I Like About You ("You really know how to dance/when you go up-down-jump-around, think I find true romance.") Silly, but these are fun rockers.
Ultimately the band members -- Rich Cole, Wally Palmer, Mike Skill and Jimmy Marinos -- have studied their idols too well. They've stopped short of truly updating the sound, preferring instead to be faithful to the original. oAnd they are good at it. While it's not exactly new, it's not a Bealtemania rip-off, either.
One wonderfully nostalgic cut is "Little White Lies." Here Marinos' piston-like drumming makes for some basic, hardcore rock'n'roll, never mind New Wave labels. The song is reminiscent of the Dave Clark Five, inspiring two things; dancing and rifling through a dusty record collection to find the old British imports. a
In fact, "The Romantics" best serves as a reminder of just how timeless those early gems are. The modern production only adds a higher energy level, an increased number of words per line and beats per split second. Where Paul McCarthy sang "I'll Get You" and seemed a jaunty romantic, The Romantics drive through "Till I See You Again" and come off as simple. Still, their music is a painless way for newcomers to catch up on the wave.