A fine stop on the musical journey for this society
They have ploughed their own furrow, San Francisco based Society of Rockets, criss-crossing a number of different genres since blossoming out from the Shimmer Kids Underpop Association in the late 90s. Their previous album, ‘Family Ways’, had the band leaning into more folk and country tinged areas for the first time and their 7th and latest release, ‘Unearthed’, continues this adventure, perhaps even delving in a little further. Led by chief songwriter Joshua Babcock, the band employs a diverse collection of instruments including theremin, bulbul tarang, and an array of synthesizers, including Mellotron, all of which are integrated with the traditional sounds of guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, fiddle, accordion and – but, of course! – bells. There is an excellent standard of musicianship, there are great harmonies throughout and the quality of song writing is very high. There are hints of Wilco and Crosby, Stills and Nash and certainly World Party in a number of songs, the latter perhaps extending that 90s connection.
There are standouts all over the record. ‘Calico’ has a delightful California feel to it, neat chord structures, the theremin, and great harmonies (the song has a charming video, reviewed by AUK recently – here) This contrasts with the marvellously named ‘Bummertown’, which is rockier, and where there is an awful lot going on, including a regularly appearing and welcome dirty guitar. ‘Witch Trials Revisited’ has an interesting psychedelic second half before gently trundling to a finish, and ‘Open Season’ has electric piano, accordion, guitars, over quite a dark lyric, with a slow but certainly not depressing vibe. The album closes superbly with ‘Error Era’, with a simple keyboard, guitar and vocal opening verse, before changing pace and style, like something from a bygone era, all nicely moody, which builds and then collapses just about perfectly.
These guys commit fully when needed, with layers of guitars and those great harmonies as well as an abundance of that dirty guitar throughout. It is perhaps just a little overlayered in parts, with a danger of the vocals being overwhelmed, but this really is a minor gripe. Society of Rockets could have found a suitable home, musically, they fit well in this space. Which probably means they will be off in a completely different direction next time. Again.