What I Like about the Romantics

The RomanticsWhen the Romantics’ publicist invited us to review the band’s new album by name-dropping the White Stripes, we weren’t quite as excited as, say, getting our preview copy of Elephant. So I would be lying if I didn’t admit to accepting with every intention of making at least one completely stupid pun on “What I Like About You.” This then is my apology for snickering at the Romantics’ comeback story.


If GloNo rated albums with stars, 61/49 would deserve the Milky Way. Not only is the album a fantastic summary of all that is great about real rock and roll, from the “Rave On” simplicity of the Pretty Things’ cover “Midnight To Six Man” to the happy pop psychedelia of “Paint The Sky,” but the band’s re-emergence after a decade of legal battles is as good as a story gets.

When last heard from, the Romantics were being issued the equivalent of a death certificate, the “Distinguished Achievement” award at the 1999 Detroit Music Awards. We can only hope that now these guys will get picked up by the Motor City bandwagon and get the recognition that has eluded so many rock and rollers from Hitsville, U.S.A. The Romantics are a direct link between the Magic Stick and the Grande; the new album plots out every point along the way. Remember: They were wearing their red outfits when John Gillis was sucking tit.

“It’s been a long, long ride down the crossroads of time,” sings Wally Palmar on the title track, as much a reference to his own band’s two-and-a-half decade history as the half-century since Elvis fashioned rock and roll from blues and hillbilly music. Rock has mutated beyond recognition several times over since, yet there have always been those bands who “have fun with three chords,” to quote Romantics guitarist Mike Skill. Fun with three chords, give or take a couple more, has always been the heart and soul of rock and roll. Yet unlike much of the Detroit garage rock that’s been recently discovered by those outside of Wayne County, Mich., the Romantics’ sound—though simple—is polished and produced. And more authentic. You can hear the 20-plus years of experience and assuredness in these guys’ chops. There’s no self-conscious, postmodern sneer in imitation of Iggy here, just the battle scars of bill-paying gigs with the likes of the Go Go’s.

Though we have no word yet on when the Romantics will be playing live in a rock and roll joint near you, 61/49 should propel the band out of the New Wave retro tour ghetto. Not that their best-known songs of the 80’s aren’t true classics (have you listened to “Talking In Your Sleep” recently?), but new material like “When Will It End” is as good as anything recorded since The Who Sing My Generation. Indeed, on 61/49 the Romantics borrow heavily from the R&B-influenced rock sounds of the mid-1960s. At times, the album comes off almost like a hyper-retro act, Freddy and the Four Gone Conclusions to the nth power. Yet in every song there’s something keeping the music from veering off into camp: Forty-two seconds into the cover of the Kinks “I Need You,” the band stops playing, the silence lasting just long enough that I remember it’s not 1966.

Of course it’s not; 61/49 makes me feel like that’s okay.

You can download mp3s of “61/49” and “Out of My Mind (Into My Head)” from their official site. Also, keep an eye out for an upcoming split single on In The Red Records where the Dirtbombs will cover a Romantics song and the Romantics will cover a Dirtbombs song.

29 thoughts on “What I Like about the Romantics”

  1. Either:

    1. This is truly a fantastic recording

    2. Aliens have invaded Sab’s body

    3. Someone needs to check on his meds

    4. Bands from Detroit have an emotional tug on him

    5. Something is in the water at GloNo HQ (note how nice we’ve been of late)

    6. Jake’s listing approach is catching

    7. All of the above

  2. Yeah! I didn’t even know they were still together, let alone putting out new stuff. And what great stuff it is-I’m picking up the new one partly based on Sab’s review but mostly on the strength of the 2 above samples. I’m all for a Romantics comeback! Kick-ass!

  3. Sab’s not crazy – ’61/49′ kicks ass. I bought it after a series of glowing articles in the local Detroit media, and have since watched its ‘Nuggets’-meets-Soundtrack of Our Lives grooves turn my Saturday night living room into the set of ‘Hullabloo’ at least twice. Buy ’61/49′ now if you want to see your best girl do her Goldie Hawn go-go dancing impersonation, too. Rock!

    JTL

  4. I just ran out at lunch and picked it up – that’s some *solid* fucking rock and roll! Everybody, seriously, get this album – it kicketh much ass. Hope this fucker goes gold on the Romantics, it deserves to!

  5. Alright, stop the presses: if I’m a) sick of “What I Like About You” (who isn’t?), b) only so-so about “Talking In Your Sleep”, and c) not originally from Michigan, but d) am a rabid fan of most things powerpop (Big *, Jellyfish, Posies, etc.), will I like this as much as the Michigan folks who have posted above? I only say this because I know that I’m much more rabid about Wesley Willis and Cheap Trick than, say, someone from Sacramento CA, partly due to the “root for the hometeam underdog” concept. And that’s not a bad thing, but it is a mitigating factor. Tell me more, tell me more!!

  6. Murph,

    In my opinion, ’61/49′ is only nominally connected to the Romantics’ handful of well-known radio singles. While there are some new wave influences here and there, the new album is, as Sab has said, much closer to the rave-up 1960s R&B that originally inspired them. What’s best about ’61/49′ though, is that it rocks with a shit-hot attitude that, these days anyway, isn’t found in very many veteran groups. For some reason, when bands get old they feel the need to lean on studio tricks or production niceties. What that usually does is castrate any attempt at rocking, and turn a band into the latest contendes for GloNo’s honorary Rod Stewart “I’ve Given Up” Award.

    The Romantics and will not win that award.

    Buy ’61/49′ now, oh fan of power pop, and prepare to do the bop while giving the finger to all the old guys who gave up rocking so long ago.

    JTL

  7. Much better. That’s kinda like exactly what I was looking for, O wise-and-eloquent Loftus. You complemented Sab’s glowing tone of “Local Boys Find Their Balls Again”* with sage and passionate words that nail it even if you aren’t a Yooper or Looper.

    (*doesn’t that sound like a kickass Onion headline?)

  8. While the rest of the world has classified The Romantics as a power poppy band that had two to three big hits, the fans always knew that these guys were the real thing; solid rockers who wrote great songs and gave terrific live performances.

    The Romantics were much more than Talkin In Your Sleep and What I Like.

    61/49 is not only an incredible album, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get to hear the Romantics Explosive Live sound.

    The album instantly magnetic as it took me hours to get to the last song because I had to replay many of the tracks.

    This is one killer CD.

  9. The CD is GREAT. A Must own! If you get a chance to see these guys LIVE… you will not regret it. They never stopped rocking all these years – they have always been one of the best live groups EVER! I’ve seen them play like CRAZY to tiny little no-show crowds and I’ve seen them play to crowds who sing along to every word of “what I like” and “talking”. The fact is… they love rock ‘n roll… they live rock ‘n roll.. they ARE REAL rock ‘n roll!!

    This CD is full force blues based… ROCK LOUD music. They will “EARN” your respect. Listen and learn all you younginz’ :)

    Joey

  10. “you people are sheep.” Yeah, because everybody knows the Romantics are such current media darlings. Who else has ever written anything nice about the Romantics?

  11. I loved the Romantic’s first few records, but I recall their first post-MTV hit record (Rhythm Romance, I think) just sucked! Very blown dry. I remember taking a bus to the record store off campus to buy it, then opening the record on the bus home to read the lyrics. We made so much fun of the lyrics that it might have ruined the album for me. Learned a lesson that day — don’t read the lyrics before you’ve had a chance to digest the song.

    A year or so later, they came to our school and, in spite of Rhythm Romance, I was psyched to see them. One of the hipster chicks (you remember the kind in the Minnie Pearl dresses that the Dead Milkmen sang about? That was her) smuggled a GARBAGE BAG full of jello out of the cafeteria and into the concert where she pelted the band with it. It was so uncool of her to do it and snicker up her sleeve at them as they struggled to play on a stage full of liquified jello. I have this mental image of the “new” drummer soldiering on through the set even though every time he hit the drums, jello would splash up at him.

    Earlier memory: one of the hottest girls in my high school went to see them right at their peak and a roadie gave her a backstage pass. Finding herself on a staircase, Marino is coming in the opposite direction and, without saying a word, he grabs her and kisses her. She tells me the story later and I was vaguely disturbed when I realized I wasn’t sure who I was more jealous of: him or her.

    New album sounds great. I’ll pick it up tomorrow.

  12. A review of that might go, “a little nutty, with a weak presence of methane. Not worthy of the bag it was sent to GloNo in, but offers clues that its originator is chock full of more of the contents of said excrement bag.”

  13. This effort is sad and disapointing. They claim Burke is their drummer, but he is only on 2 songs on the album. Yet half the CD features Marinos drum tracks (Marinos has not played with the Romantics in 6-7 years). How inspirational it must have been for the remaining 3 Romantics to play along to a 6-7 year old drum track, and lay down their respective guitar/bass/vocal parts. Thats not Rock and Roll, thats rubbish!! They call this a new album? This material, or at least the songs Marinos is drumming on are at least 6-7 years old!! Was Burke not good enough to play Marinos drum parts on those 5 songs? Or are they that dependednt on Marinos being a part of the band, or at least the implication that he is still playing with the Romantics as far as their “comeback” effort is concerned? These guys are sad!! What a pathetic offering of “new” material. So, who really is their drummer?

    nick

  14. OK, one more rave about this album and I’ll shut up. I’ve been playing it non-stop all weekend. My new fave track is now ‘Out Of My Mind (Into My Head)’.

    I think it’s so cool when an old band comes up with some hot shit and practically re-invents itself. I’ll be keeping my eye on the Romantics – their next CD is already bought, as far as I’m concerned. I still can’t believe I’m revved up over the Romantics…

  15. Nick, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass who their drummer is, the original guy or the Blondie guy. Nor do I care when the drum tracks were recorded. Yesterday, today, ten years ago. What does it matter? If you don’t like the music, fine, but let’s not let chronology interfere with enjoyment. The album rocks, period.

  16. “Nick,

    Right on brother!

    Rude”

    ???

    Is there some weird fan base splinter out there that’s all about The Romantic’s drumming situation? I don’t get it.

  17. Jesus f’n Christ. Am I the only person with their ears open anymore?? Give me a break people…this album is surely mediocre at best. And I say that with such regret as I SO wanted it to be a return to form. Having been a Romantics fan since I bought their 1st album back in the 6th grade – I can say with the upmost confidence that this dreck doesn’t even come close to either that disc or their other classic “In Heat” by a longshot. And while we’re at it, let’s set the record straight here: There was NEVER anything remotely “new wave” about the Romantics whatsoever. I realize for the uninitiated that it must be hard to resist lumping them in with the likes of Haircut 100 or the Thompson Twins – but reality suggests that’s just both lazy and shoddy journalism. Call them power pop, call them garage rock if you really feel a need to lump them into some specific category – but to throw that new wave tag out there is just lame and idiotic. Almost as much as the review for this record AND all the goofballs standing in line to kiss Sabitini’s ass. F****n’ sheep? Ya got that right…..

  18. Tony, you are so right. I too am a long time Romantics fan. I saw them for the first time in the late 70s, and have seen them several times since. The Romantics were a great live Rock&Roll Band, and that live energy transcended directly to their recordings. But, unfortunately, “61/49” lacks the magic of the earlier recordings. Somthing is missing. There is none of that “What I like about you” magic on “61/49”. With a name like “61/49”, one would think it would be oozing with mojo! Where is that crossroads influenced emotion? I can’t put my finger on it, but even the production/sound seems a bit murky or foggy. Gone is the in your face punch, feeling and clairity of a “What I like about you”, or “Rock you up”. Nope, it just ain’t there brothers, it just ain’t there. Unfortunately, “61/49” may be the Romantics final studio release. If so, hopfully it will not be the one that they are remembered by. What I like about the Romantics seems to have vanashed in the mid 80s.

    rude

  19. If all this ’61/49′ hateration proves anything, it’s that gray-templed power pop fans can be as big of bitches as those training bra Rooney fans were a few months ago. I’m going to take this moment to nominate The Romantics’ ’61/49′ as one of my favorite albums of 2003. Obviously, I completely disagree with the naysayers here. But I’d also like to nominate it soley *because* of these naysayers, who evidently have never had the pleasure of kiss Sabitini’s ass, and just seem like Joe Noseitalls to me. I care little for the Ramantics backstory, even though I know what it is. I don’t mind that there’s controversey over who drummed what. I could care less what their music – old or new – is categorized as, even if I have an opinion about that. What matters is that ’61/49′ sounds. Great. In. My. Living. Room. On. Saturday. Night. It makes my party guests happy, and goes great with a beer. And nowadays, when the affectations often overshadow musicality, I’ll take that as a new gospel. Let’s get crunked because the Romantics are back.

    JTL

  20. Ok, it’s been a few weeks since I got 61/49, and the giddy joy I felt at finding old musical favorites re-inventing themselves has passed.

    I’ve had a chance to weigh the music on it’s own merits, and I gotta say, it still kicks ass with a size 12 steel toe boot. If you love rock, you really need to pick this up.

  21. I had the CD before I saw the Romantics live in Mt. Clemens at the Emerald Theater in October. Although I am an ancient one (their age), I was never a fan when they were popular — the Kinks, the Who, etc. were more in my line. Seeing them in person was incredible — the two bands that preceded them were absolute shit, but I suffered through them to see if the Romantics were what worth the hoopla. They were. As far as the new CD goes, although I agree with the naysayers who feel the production on the album isn’t quite up to snuff, I love it anyway (with the exception of “Paint the Sky”, which is just plain bizarre). Performed live, it kicked ass like you wouldn’t believe. I have since started listening to their previous releases, and although the old ones have more raw energy, they are technically inferior to the new one in many ways (I think the guys used that time to take guitar lessons. . .) I’m also pleased that they’re singing about topics other than sex. . .

  22. The band rocks with or without Marinos. (Tip of the hat to Johnny “The Bee” Badanjek). The new album doesn’t have a track with quite the same sound as a “What I Like About You,” or “Rock You Up,” but the songs still rock–especially tracks 1-4 and 6. (By the fifth track it’s time to turn the volume down a notch and take a breather, by the sixth track you crank it up again.) The magic is still there.

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