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Review: 'LAUFER, ROB'

-  Label: 'EYE RECORDS (www.roblaufermusic.com)'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '2005'-  Catalogue No: 'E2002'

Our Rating:
ROB LAUFER is very much a musician's musician. He has a CV that includes session work (Frank Black, Katell Keinig, Fiona Apple), production (Melissa Ferrick, The Get Set, Wendie Coulter), opening shows for stadium fillers (Santana, Jeff Beck) and he even fulfilled his long-term Fab Four fixation by playing George Harrison in the touring musical 'Beatlemania.'

Crucially, though, Laufer's journeyman adaptability doesn't equate with being a musical Jack-of-all-trades, because his solo recordings suggest he's very much his own man with tunes and idosyncracies all his own. His way with power-pop infused melodies has so far blessed us with two albums, 'Swimming Lesson' (which got him signed to Warner offshoot Discovery Records) and 'Wonderwood' and while third album 'The Iron Age' may have appeared on his own Eye Records imprint, it certainly doesn't represent any dip in quality.

Actually, the one Laufer CV entry I forgot to mention was that he's previously had tunes covered by Cheap Trick's Robin Zander, and it's certainly not hard to hear why when you're confronted by the best, no-nonsense tunes from 'The Iron Age'. Indeed, muscular and harmony-heavy outings like the riffsmart 'Carcrash Boyfriend', 'Inside Story' and beefy honesty of 'Open' are among the very best things here. In fact, while we're on the subject, the mighty fine 'Did You See Her Dance?' even gets within kissing distance of quintessential US power pop of the doe-eyed, early Big Star variety and is certainly none the worse for that.

Elsewhere, Laufer proves he has further aces to play. Both 'Backseat' and the chiming and regretful 'Sweet Downfall' are languid aches of songs and quite excellent. The Neil Finn-style vocals and use of sighing pedal steel on the latter are especially memorable, while with 'Angelyne', he's fashioned a bitchy, Beatles/ Elliott Smith-style narrative of the first water and on 'Girl In Garnets' he has a potential lighter-waver without pressing too hard on the 'scmaltz' pedal. No mean feat in itself.

Sure, bits of it don't work so well. Fun though it is, 'Shoot The Moon' is basically a great snaky bass-line in search of a song to hang itself on and the wacky 'In The Frame' takes forced jauntiness a bridge too far. Nonetheless, even these aren't major clunkers and for the most part Rob Laufer's skilful way with a tune suggests 'The Iron Age' is an evolutionary songwriting period you'll want to return to more than occasionally.
  author: Tim Peacock

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