Itâ€™s spooky how good the Rubinoos sound in their 45th year as a band. Jon Rubinâ€™s lead vocals are still sweetly youthful, songwriter Tommy Dunbar continues to mine a seemingly inexhaustible supply of melodies, and the quartetâ€™s harmonies are as tight as ever. The current line-up features long-time bassist Al Chan and original drummer Donn Spindt, and are nearly indistinguishable from the group that was featured in the pages of Tiger Beat magazine.
None of which should suggest that the Rubinoos are frozen in the amber of 1977. Dunbarâ€™s songwriting has widened over the years, both in the musical influences he incorporates and the themes he explores. Thereâ€™s jazz in the guitar of â€œGraveyard Shift,â€ a soulful melody (and a touch of electric sitar!) in â€œWhat More Can You Ask of a Friend,â€ and â€œDoes Suzie Like Boysâ€ updates the standard love song with a modern day consideration. Gene Pitneyâ€™s â€œTown Without Pityâ€ provides the atmosphere for the dark instrumental â€œKangaroo Court,â€ and the group rocks out for â€œCountdown to Love.â€
Still, thereâ€™s plenty of pure pop, including Al Chanâ€™s tender vocal on â€œYou Are Hereâ€ and an a cappella cover of Lou Christieâ€™s â€œRhapsody in the Rain.â€ The latter is highlighted by Jon Rubinâ€™s falsetto and a bass vocal from The Mighty Echoesâ€™ Charlie Davis. The bandâ€™s doo-wop and garage roots cross paths in â€œI Love Louie Louie,â€ and Dunbarâ€™s affinity for the Beatles, by way of Erie, PAâ€™s Wonders, is heard in his 12-string laden original â€œThat Thing You Do.â€ Originally pitched for the film, the demo (sung by Dunbar and Chan) has been spruced up with Donn Spindtâ€™s drums.
The album closes with the optimistic â€œAll It Takesâ€ and a cover of Radio Daysâ€™ â€œSheâ€™s Driving Me Crazy.â€ Both tunes were previously released on a split 7â€, but are a valuable addition for the stylus-impaired. The album proves that youthfulness is a state of mind, rather than a physical age, as the charms of the Rubinoosâ€™ teenage years are undimmed. Since returning to the studio for 1998â€™s Paleophonic, the groupâ€™s waxed covers, childrenâ€™s songs and more, but forty-five years on, they still reach back to their early years with ease. [Â©2015 Hyperbolium]