MUSIC: John Reviews “Rosematter” a.k.a. “Shooter’s Gonna Choke” by Rosematter

If you’ve been following my recent reviews of Cruiserweight’s albums, you’ll know that Pandora is a music resource that can be at once both very useful and very misleading.  Rosematter is another band that Pandora recommended for me, and I enjoyed “I Bet She Gives Great Helmet” enough to hunt down an album of theirs.  Though it was not as easy a task as it should’ve been (more on that later) I picked up their self-titled album and found exactly what Cruiserweight’s second album refused to deliver to me: fast, rockin’ female-fronted powerpop with lyrics that fluctuate between amusing, depressing and uplifting, but are consistently clever and refreshing.

I had some trouble picking up Rosematter because of a problem with the album’s naming, which was exacerbated by iTunes.  If you look on the iTunes store, you’ll find two albums by Rosematter with identical tracks: Shooter’s Gonna Choke and their self-titled album.  Since I still believe in buying music at retail (for whatever reason) and appreciate references to Happy Gilmore, I headed to the Virgin Megastore to pick up a copy of Shooter’s Gonna Choke.  When I got there, I couldn’t remember the name of the band, so I looked up the album in their catalog and found that it was no longer being carried.  Drag!  Little did I know (until my return trip) that it had been sitting in the pop/rock “R” section all along, albeit under a different name.

So why the name change?  Is it because the tweens and teens of today wouldn’t recognize a reference to one of Adam Sandler’s only funny movies if they heard it? (Wow, am I that far removed from the youth of today?) No!  It turns out that the band was dropped from Lobster Records and released the tracks as a repackaged “reboot” album under their new label, Victory Records.  As far as I can tell, the tracks are identical in every way.  It even shows up as “Shooter’s Gonna Choke” in my iTunes library!  Anyway, enough with the background.  On to the review!

Whatever you call it, the album kicks off with “Decadence is Freedom with a Smile.” Rosematter lets you have it with full-speed-ahead powerpop right out of the gate and doesn’t let up for the duration of the album.  As far as I can tell, the song is about living life to the fullest and not getting caught up in the small stuff.  The first lines of the chorus are: “every breath we take is / a moment that we’ll never have again / how does it taste?”  Lead singer Katie’s vocals are powerful and emotional without being whiny, which is always a good thing in my book.  Strong guitar and drum presence is a mainstay here and throughout the album.

Next up is the track that introduced me to the band, “I Bet She Gives Great Helmet.” Yay for Spaceballs references!  There’s more of what I’ll call a “highway rhythm” to this one, giving the impression that it’s about a break-up taking place during a cross-country drive.  There’s a nice effect to Katie’s vocals on this song, as if she’s singing backup vocals for herself (there’s a technical term for this, but I sure as heck don’t know it.)

“I Don’t Cheat, I Get Results” is currently my favorite Rosematter track, in large part because it has a slightly slower start that builds in intensity and because it features my favorite lyrics on the album.  The song is a love letter from itself to the band and its fans, and their emotion and enthusiasm shines through brighter than on any of their relationship-related songs.  It’s their “This One Is Gonna Leave A Bruise” (for those who are familiar with Less Than Jake.)  My favorite set of lines has to be their remembrance of good times from the old days, “All those nights with nothing to do / resulted in timeless experiences … every album you handed me / every kolbrooks’ basement show / Every weekend road trip that ended up with the four of us / sleeping in a car at a truck stop outside Newark, Delaware.” It may not flow on paper, but they make it work in the song.  More than anything, it’s moments like these (and the clever song titles) that made it so easy for me to identify with and relate to Rosematter.

The band follows that stellar entry with their radio hit, “Fool Me Once, Strike One.  Fool Me Twice, Strike Three.”  I’ve heard that this title is a reference to The Office, but I don’t recognize it.  Its former title was “If I Played Little League Now, I’d Kick Ass” according to Youtube clips.  This is another great song about how awesome it is to be in a band, playing your heart out and living the life we all wish we could.  Rosematter can get away with songs like this while they’re still relatively unknown, because we know they’re not being obnoxious about their fame and wealth.  They’re clearly in this because they love playing music, and that’s what “Fool Me Once” is all about.

The next track, “Do Re Egon,” wins the award for best reference of the album.  I suspect The All-New Cheap Moves would concur, since they also have a love of Ghostbusters II quotes.  The song itself is a bit more vocal-heavy and features bouncier drums than its predecessors, as Katie belts out a cautionary tale that stresses the importance of getting out of your small town and seeing the world before you’re trapped forever and your life has passed you by.  Katie and the rest of the band must have been Save Ferris fans back in the day, because she sounds exactly like a slightly younger Monique Powell on this track, which makes me happier than it has any right to.

“Chuck Norris Jokes Aren’t Funny Anymore” wins the prize for funniest non-reference song title, but is unfortunately a bit standard as emo-pop goes.  It even features tearing-heart-from-chest imagery, which is about as cliche as you can get.

I had to ask a friend what the joke of “Anyone Who Hates John Hinckley Doesn’t Understand True Love” was. Apparently John Hinckley was the guy who tried to assassinate Ronald Raegan in an effort to win the affection of Jodie Foster.  This one has some winner lyrics, like “Fifty Cent is a rapper, not a tip” for comedy and “Tap the brakes and late-night shakes / Oh, babe, some scars are just too deep” for drama.  The tempo shifts from something like a power ballad during the verses to full-on Rosematter powerpop for the choruses.  It’s a great example of the band’s ability to do more than just rock at 8,000 miles per hour.

“Your Mom Doesn’t Count as a Fan, Jesse” is probably the saddest and most dramatic (without being cliche) track on the album, but manages to balance its dramatic lyrics with rockin’ music and even some gang vocals on the chorus (and we all know how much I love gang vocals.) Bonus points for the line “I hate the way you push this lightning out your mouth”  It’s strange, but you get exactly what she means.

“Being Brave Usually Means Having Your Adult Teeth Knocked Out” has the most Guitar Hero-friendly opening, and also sports some of the most positive lyrics on the album.  It could be about a connection between people, but I choose to interpret it as a song about America.  I think that “We could be lost in all our situations / or on the verge of clarity / We share disaster and strive for meaning / a collection of laughter and tears, regret and satisfaction / connect us all” could work in either context, don’t you?

I think that “Pull A Fievel and Go West” is about sex, but it’s a bit open to interpretation (which is good, because it’s weird to have song about sex and its title be a reference to a Don Bluth animated kids’ movie.)  I can tell you that it’s got some of the best gang vocals on the album, and continues Rosematter’s pulse-pounding race to the musical finish line.

Finally, we close with “I Drink to Prepare for a Fight (Tonight I’m Very Prepared.)”  Sadly, I thought this was the most forgettable track, and can’t think of much to write about it now.  That’s not to say it’s bad, mind you, just not very memorable.

Overall, I think that Rosematter (or Shooter’s Gonna Choke, whichever you choose to call it) is an excellent debut album by a spunky powerpop band that shows tons of promise and has a great sense of humor & humility.  For those of my era, the classic comedy movie references and stylistic echoes of Save Ferris make for an easy connection (though I’m sure the youth of today would say they sound like a happier Paramore, the go-to band for comparing female vocalists.)

Oh, and to all the Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer fans out there:  Both Rosematter and Zolof are from Pennsylvania, both are spunky powerpop (of different sorts), and both have a young, photogenic platinum blonde female lead vocalist.  If they don’t start touring together, it’ll be a huge waste of opportunity.

Just for fun and in the tradition of Rocky & Bullwinkle, I’m going to list the tracks’ actual titles, and what could be their more traditional titles (in my estimation):

1. “Decadence is Freedom with a Smile” (or How Does It Taste?)

2. “I Bet She Gives Great Helmet” (or Forward Motion)

3. “I Don’t Cheat, I Get Results” (or More than Memories)

4. “Fool Me Once, Strike one.  Fool Me Twice, Strike Three” (or Every Night is a Revolution)

5. “Do Re Egon” (or Munsoned in Minnesota)

6. “Chuck Norris Jokes Aren’t Funny Anymore” (or Frustration Overwhelms Me)

7. “Anyone Who Hates John Hinckley Doesn’t Understand True Love” (or Late Night Scene)

8. “Your Mom Doesn’t Count as a Fan, Jesse” (or This Is not a Game)

9. “Being Brave Usually Means Having Your Adult Teeth Knocked Right Out” (or On the Verge of Clarity)

10. “Pull A Fievel and Go West” (or Quick Glances and Deep Breaths)

11. “I Drink to Prepare for a Fight (Tonight I’m Very Prepared)”  (or Midnight Has Come and Gone)

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One Response

  1. Just for those who care–“Fool Me Once, Strike one. Fool Me Twice, Strike Three” is an Office reference, to episode 3-12, “Traveling Salesman”, an excellent episode and one of the funniest of season three. Michael delivers the line in a talking head.

    And John, I love the band’s song titles! I love that they (usually) reference something, and it makes the group very intriguing. Now you have to listen to them.

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