The Rubinoos: Automatic Toaster

Power-pop, soul and garage-rock from the Rubinoos

Few groups have had as strong a second wind as the Rubinoos. After releasing two beloved albums in the late ‘70s (available together in a box set), the group went on hiatus for over a decade. But since their return to studio for 1998’s Paleophonic, they’ve dropped four albums of new material alongside numerous reissues, odds ‘n’ sods collections and live recordings. This latest album, their first since 2005’s Twist Pop Sin has been released initially in Spain (where the band has been warmly welcomed on tour) and features the longtime core of Jon Rubin (vocals/guitar), Tommy Dunbar (guitar/vocals/keyboard) and Al Chan (bass/vocals). Joining the trio on drums this time out is the album’s producer (and, yes, one time “Cousin Oliver”), Robbie Rist.

Dunbar’s nine original songs (including new versions of “Must Be a Word,” previously waxed by Vox Pop, and “Earth #1,” which appeared on the band’s Biff-Boff-Boing!) are complemented by a pair of covers: a sumptuous guitar-and-harmony take on Johnny Johnson’s soul side “Blame it on the Pony Express,” and a punchy run through Los Bravos’ “Black is Black.” The new tunes celebrate the basics of four-piece rock ‘n’ roll, the early days of the Beatles, and the superiority of our third planet from the Sun. There are garage rock riffs, kid-friendly horror and humor, and the sort of heartaches that make the band’s early records so memorable. The terrific “Same Old Heartbreak,” released several years ago by the song’s co-writer Kyle Vincent as modern pop on Sweet 16, resounds with the romantic urgency of the Rubinoos’ earliest gems.

Jon Rubin’s voice is as sweet as ever, and Tommy Dunbar’s guitar and pen continue to turn out hummable melodies with clever, catchy lyrics. It’s a shame today’s teen singing stars don’t mine the band’s catalog for undiscovered gems of adolescent longing. Dunbar’s songs are more tuneful and true to teenage emotions than Disney’s factory writers typically achieve. The power and crispness of Rist’s drumming is a nice addition to the band’s sound, though a couple of cuts get overpowered. Heading into their fifth decade, the Rubinoos remain a potent rock ‘n’ roll band whose fine harmonies and guitar-bass-and-drums haven’t lost a step. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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