Rooney: Strokin’ to the West


Magic Stick, Detroit, May 27, 2003

Jason Schwartzman's brother's bandIt’s always disorienting to attend a rock & roll show in the daytime; it’s even more confusing when it feels more like a sitcom taping than a club gig. The youngsters in LA combo Rooney were in town, and it became immediately clear that most of the respectable Tuesday evening crowd was more interested in the glare off the band’s Hollywood cheekbones than its workmanlike mixture of 70s pop and 1980s piano tie fizz.

Rooney emerged in 2000 around vocalist/guitarist Robert Carmine, who had previously risen to Teen People levels of fame with appearances in The Virgin Suicides and The Princess Diaries under his given name, Robert Schwartzman. Yes yes, Carmine is another Talia Shire offspring, and the brother of Jason Schwartzman, better known as either Max Fischer or the drummer of Phantom Planet, the poppy-like-Costello LA squad that gave Rooney an opening slot early in 2001. Both had the right mix of looks, chops, and properly fashionable influences to make waves in a pop music world where retro is once again chic. Rooney soon signed with Geffen/Interscope, tidied up its wardrobe of pressed velvet blazers, grew in to-die-for shags, and embarked on tours with Weezer, The Vines, and The Strokes before even releasing a debut record. That LP finally dropped in spring 2003. Produced by Keith Forsey (Psychedelic Furs), Brian Reeves (Pet Shop Boys), and industry kingpin Jimmy Iovine, the eponymous affair is primed and pretty. It’s steeped in the sunny sounds of ELO and The Beach Boys, references Oingo Boingo and the Furs on the back end, and lies in a poppy field of digitized vintage effects. The album is a Patrick Nagel woman dressed down in a drop-neck designer number from 1974, and marks the arrival of the left coast Strokes. Let ’em recognize from Long Beach to Rosecrans.

As part of its ongoing series of renovations, The Magic Stick removed the carpeting that had blanketed its main area in favor of gleaming hardwood. While the new floor was shiny, cool, and made everything louder, it also contributed to the disorienting quality of Rooney’s set. The last rays of sun were still shining through the Stick’s skylight as Carmine and his cohorts took the stage to the titters and swoons of the eager Hot Topic shoppers clogging stage front. But without the nighttime gloom to fill in its nooks and crannies, the club became, well, just a room. Sound system, light rack, square stage, glimmering hardwood floor? It could just have easily been a sound stage masquerading as a rock club. Add 150 gussied up kids screaming and cheering with each song’s end, and it might as well have been a movie shoot. No APPLAUSE! signs went on, and a PA never stopped Rooney midway through a song for a re-do, since the camera guys didn’t get the shot they wanted. But as that scenario ran through my head, it became clear that the music wasn’t exciting enough to hold my interest. Sure, the kids can play. Fancy-hair’d guitarist Taylor Locke effortlessly threw out fuzzy Les Paul guitar lines, and Louie Stephens’ spacey, ooo-WEE-ooh’ing synth lines were campy, sugary fun. But through roughly all of its debut and an OK cover of the Ramones’ “We’re a Happy Family” (the title track from this year’s star-studded Ramones tribute LP), Rooney showed absolutely no enthusiasm. It was like watching a bunch of pint-sized studio cats rehearse material for a chamber pop experiment by Jeff Lynne and Ric Ocasek.

Despite the initial hype, eventual supermodel love-a-making, and subsequent over-exposure, The Strokes still proved to be a solid live act with a lot of sophomore potential. Similarly, Phantom Planet won over naysayers with a solid effort on wax (2002’s The Guest), and a club tour that found them goofing around with the locals and smashing up their own gear. Okay, maybe they can afford to smash their gear where some dudes can’t. But the smashing was genuine at least 1 out of 5 times. Rooney can’t squeak by on a stylized vintage pedigree, big-name production values and fabulous haircuts. As the band proved Tuesday evening, it needs to ditch the onstage indifference, stop trying to figure out which girl waiting by the tour bus is of age, and start focusing on the rock and roll.


43 thoughts on “Rooney: Strokin’ to the West”

  1. “As part of its ongoing series of renovations, The Magic Stick removed the carpeting that had blanketed its main area in favor of gleaming hardwood.”

    Damn, the next thing you’ll be telling me is that the Gold Dollar has reopened as a downtown Detroit Deja Vu franchise.

  2. Ok that last comment was rude to the extreme. Has he met the Rooney guys, they are really nice and respectful towards their fans.

    I personally love Rooney, and have gone to 3 of their concerts, and the one thing they could add is making it a little more personal, and interact with the audience a little more. But Taylor Locke the guitarist is genuinely fun to watch, always moving and playing awesome solos. So though sometimes they’re live preformances lack a little energy, they are still fun to watch, and have amazing songs.

  3. I genuinly don’t know what this Johnny Loftus is talking about. I realize that everyone has their own opinion, but this opinion was nothing but rude. Not only to the band, but to the fans also. It made us fans seem like nothing but wanna-be groupies. So I suggest he think more about what he is saying before it is put out on the internet. And by the way, ROONEY ROCKS MY SOCKS.

  4. I don’t know who you think you were watching but i saw Rooney when they came to the Uk and they definetely were excellent,At least they play there own instruments and write ther own songs,They have worked damn hard to get where they are today and i personaly think they deserve it,Robert changed his second name so he didn’t have to depend on his family for help to prove he could make it on his own

  5. Critics are arrogant. Get a new job.

    You knew your opinion before Rooney performed one note. If all your article can eminate is overtones of anything BUT the actual music, something is wrong.

    Listen with your ears and get over who copied whom first.


  6. I can see where you are coming from. I mean, I always thought someone’s hair, relatives, fanbase, and venue location decided if their music was good or not.

    Thanks for an entertaining read, though.


  7. This has got to be a fuggin’ joke. The groupie horde are making their rounds like a muthfug.

    Sorry, I’m a bit stoned. I’m trying to think of something Gene Simmons said once ’bout having an all-female audience and it being the kiss of death, because they are not loyal. HAR!

  8. Fucking hilarious. I know nothing about this “rooney” but great article, and the comments have me laughing my ass off! ;)

  9. holy crap! you mean there are girls besides kristy that use this page? hey lovlies, i look just like the guys in rooney, except much sexier, and i play guitar too – do you wanna be my groupies?

  10. hmm, except from what i can tell from your posts, most of you are too young for me. and i’m only 22.

    did rooney get interviewed in “teen people” recently or something? or perhaps “Bop”?

  11. ok. i’ll admit it. i’ve neer heard of a “rooney” before, but you gals crack me up! where were all your outraged voices when Elephant got a so-so review here on this page? or is jack not (gasp!) sexy enough for you?

    wish i was as sexy as a rooney…

  12. Johnny, You better watch out, you might get some scorned Rooney fans egging your house. Funny article, I really enjoyed the Hot Topic comment!

  13. Seriously, I was at the show with Johnny, and he is absolutely spot on. First of all we definitely had no preconceived notions about how good or bad Rooney was or would be, in fact he gave a pretty favorable review of their new LP. We were actually pretty psyched to check them out live. The fact is, that the place was full of 16 to freshly 21 year olds running around in their parents’ old clothes, and knee socks screaming and gushing over how great Rooney was. It literally seemed as though the band had brought in their own cheering section from Santa Monica. Clicks of fashionable 20 year olds doing shoots near the bar paying homage and cheering to Rooney?? They have only recorded like 10 songs??? Yes they played their instruments well, and the songs weren’t awful. But for a couple of old dudes (26,28 respectively), it’s a pretty fucking annoying scene. The fact is that you can’t get pissed off at the article because it makes note of their “stylized vintage pedigree, big-name production values and fabulous haircuts”, because unfortunately in this day and age all of that shite does matter, or you wouldn’t see the bass player standing on stage with a stupid blank stare, HUGE sunglasses, and a velour waistcoat.

  14. Matt is a cool guy, and if he wants to wear sunglasses and a velour waistcoat then more power to him. I happened to find the concert very entertaining. I think these comments are really unjustified. What they wear and how long their hair is, and where the fans shop really has absolutely nothing at all to do with their music. Secondly, cutting FANS down is really self awarding and rude.

    This is just like when I read reviews of movies. You’ve got people critiquing a show that aren’t the target audience of the entertainment. Rooney’s target audience is young and fun. Not older and overly critical. Lighten up.

  15. Haven’t you guys learned yet that you’re not allowed to express negative opinions? I mean, not liking music and saying so is just so blase. You’re obviously too old to be experiencing Rooney’s schtick for the first time, so shut the hell up and go listen to your Nirvana records, you old goats.

  16. Ahhh, Frank Sinatra… Now That was music. “Rooney”, “Nirvanna”, “The Beetles”… none of you kids knows nothing bout nothing! When the Chairman of the Board sings about heart-pills, you feel what it’s like to take heart-pills! Oh yeah baby! You can all take your “modern rock” and put it on one of your skating boards and go down a fast hill! Get out of my yard!

  17. In that vein…

    I didn’t realize that Mickey Rooney was doing music now. Boy, he was good in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

  18. Before one of the band’s sock rockers lets you know, I might as well, just so you’ll have something to say when it comes up as a trivia question:

    Rooney’s moniker is derived from Jeffrey Jones’ character Ed Rooney, the embattled principal from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day off.’ There you go.

    R00kneeRULZ, school sux! Class of 2003 4EVR!

  19. This band needs Jeffrey Jones himself to step on stage and eyeball a few of those groupies while he takes some greasy southern style licks on a big ole Epiphone Casino. And all the songs should be called “Bueller!”

  20. But really — are these young pups just too young to know that to truly appreciate rock and roll one must be jaded?

    I mean, as soon as they heard Rooney was coming to town, didn’t they put on airs and say they’d seen it all before?

    Or has the culture changed? Before I started taking liver pills, we would have been too cool for Rooney 10 seconds after it happened. Or if you were REALLY cool, 10 minutes before it happened.

    Or perhaps these fans are identifying Rooney as the next stadium band. Perhaps these are the stadium rockers, weighing in on Glorious Noise.

    See Rooney sponsored by Clear Channel at a stadium near you.

    But probably not, as Rooney can’t replace Johnny’s blood pressure meds, they probably won’t have the passion to get the message out there to a big enough base.

    Still to jaded to listen to NirVANa after all these years (I mean, they totally ripped off the Pixies, ya know?),


  21. Hmmmmm… Me thinks Johnny’s review has hit a Rooney fan site- I just don’t think that there are that many Rooney fans reading GloNo- uh cause they sorta suck and aren’t really rockin’ anyones sox that’s not 16. thank you.

  22. ho you girls crack me up. don’t become so emotionaly invested in a stupid review. one mans opinian on a band shouldn’t make you cry. and come on, over roony? i understand if he shits all over the white stripes or like the clash or smothing but roony? come on, they’re very good but not worth this fuss. relax…

    ps: jack is sexy enough for me!

  23. Hmm…I don’t know what’s worse…all the fans whining about this lame review, or all the old losers who have nothing better to do than rag on little girls 10 years younger than them?

  24. wow…I love that your review was VERY honest…a lot of writers try to kiss artist’s ass especially if they want to get press time with them once they blow up huge…but the only one thing I find untrue as being a Rooney fan is “the eager Hot Topic shoppers clogging stage front”…I do not shop at Hot Topic…although it seems like a fun…”hey look at me I am so Goth” idea.

  25. ok, first off, you people just need to chill out, and i think that J Frankie’s comment is funny… and also, you can NOT compare Rooney to Nirvana, you can’t, there just is no comparison, Nirvana is one of THE greatest bands ever. I think Rooney is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but come on, no matter how old you are, Nirvana just F*cken rocks. And i think that the guy is really funny too. ok, well just chill people, later.

  26. I think Rooney is great and I think all this is funny. So… keep talking all you want because nobody really cares what y’all say.

  27. I like Rooney personally, but I also used to write reviews, and from a critics’ stand-point I thoroughly enjoyed Johnny’s well-written and honest review (though I agree with Shayla’s tongue-in-cheek allusion to the over-emphasized importance of venue, audience, and haircut). All in all I’d say keep up the good work.. (but what’s this about Elephant receiving a so-so review? Tisk tisk).

  28. i’m not here to bitch. i think it was a funny article and i’m a HARDCORE rooney fan!! it’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t like rooney!! so what guys!! it’s their loss!! rooney rocks my socks sooooooo much, but who cares if this kid doesn’t like them?! but i must say: rooney’s music shouldn’t be so harshly judged by their fanbase. they can’t help who their fans are. and robert can’t help who his family is!! and they aren’t trying to be anyone but themselves either! oh and rooney has a hell of a lot more songs out there than just 10. there’s actually 11 on their album, and so many more on the web!! I LOVE ROONEY! and i wish they didn’t get negative vibes from this johnny cat, but oh well…it was a funny, entertaining, untruthful article and i know that and all of rooney’s fans know that so why does it matter what he thinks anyways?


    p.s., i don’t think that you could EVER be as sexy as rooney (well you’re probably sexier than the bass player, matt…but that’s it!)!!! ;)

  29. Regarding this article;

    Looking for that girl by the tour bus IS Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!!!

    …Unless, of course, you’re Jerry Lee Lewis or R. Kelley.

    Besides, Schwartzman is a sweet kid, so I can’t imagine his brother being too much different. This is especially true judging solely by Rooney’s music, which is all any of us can really criticize them for, not their on-stage presence; that’s just pulp. Many of our most treasured artists had absolutely no presence on-stage, but it was the music that they brought to life that shone through.

    Afterall, if the music is good enough, or touches you in some way, you shouldn’t have to be entertained by anything but the music, should you? I mean, I don’t have to see a great production to enjoy live music.

    It’s nice that the author of this piece has been lucky enough to see bands that are personable and more user-friendly, but you really can’t let that detract from a good musical performance. (Ever gone to the symphony?)

    I would have enjoyed reading about that.

  30. Haha, this is funny, but I’m definitely with J. Loftus here. OK enough band, but they’re just riding the retro wave.

    In response to some of the comments now…

    My voice WAS heard on the Elephant review…I remember making a comment about liking Pepsi, although I can’t remember why. I should take a look at that. And Jack is definitely hot enough for me, but his mug shot is creepy.

    Age is sometimes a factor in someone’s music taste…but not here. I’m close enought to 16 and Rooney isn’t the thing that’s “rocking my socks.”

    and…I had something else to say but I forgot. ;)


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