Put this new disc by Rose Hill Drive on and the first thing you hear is a haughty slice of blues rock called "Sneak Out" that blasts from the speakers like a mid-puberty Stevie Ray Vaughan unleashing a burst of adolescent hormones. And judging from this song alone‚ you may think that the Boulder power trio has let all that's happened to them in the two years since their debut go to their head. With a tour with the Who‚ some onstage jamming with Leslie West and Warren Haynes‚ and the seal of approval from none other than David Fricke over at Rolling Stone (not to mention a plethora of other critics)‚ they clearly have a lot to be proud of. And lemme be frank here for a minute: what won that surfeit of critics over initially was their instrumental prowess onstage‚ first and foremost‚ not their songs. What garnered the attention was the rush of seeing a young band that looked like they just stepped out of a time machine from the 1970s blasting out some heavy blues with same knack for channeling their Delta forefathers that their main influences had. Because‚ hey‚ it's not everyday you get to see a band that doesn't try to sound like Led Zeppelin‚ but actually kinda does.
But keep listening‚ because all "Sneak Out" does is throw this album into the stratosphere. If there is anything that comes out loud and clear on Moon is the New Earth‚ it's the band's discipline‚ like they really pondered their status before delving into the studio‚ and wanted nothing more than to write some really good tunes. Because it'd be easy to expect just a blues-rock wank fest from these guys‚ stacking cliché riff on top of cliché riff and blistering solo on top of blistering solo with bassist/vocalist Jacob Sproul caterwauling some stolen blues sputterings over the top in an overtly sexual bluster that would get most dimwits to cheer him on as he humps the air. In other words‚ they could've made a whole album's worth of "Sneak Out"s and it probably would've still been great‚ but Rose Hill Drive know they'll always have the stage for rocking our faces off.
That's not to say that there isn't a lot of rocking‚ because there is; "The 8th Wonder" pounds then soars then pounds some more‚ and "I'm On To You" is absolutely scorching‚ letting guitarist Daniel Sproul give us one of his many holy-shit solos‚ the kind that'll make you remember why that buttery Les Paul tone is so timeless. They aren't above being catchy either; on many songs Jake sounds rather beatific‚ almost like an ex-member of Hanson (kind of ironic since he also looks a bit like a member of Hanson) letting out his post-pop-stardom angst in a badass rock trio but just can't help but lay some sunny melodies over their blues pummel. "Altar Junkie" and "Trans Am" would probably be heavy enough for a riot if he didn't sound so damn cheery‚ and on "Laughing in the Streets" he and his overdubbed harmonious counterparts seem to think they're in the Mamas and Papas‚ while his backing band fancies themselves the Kinks. I'd be the one to tell 'em it was all just a fantasy if it wasn't so catchy.
It's with "A Better Way‚" "One Night Stand‚" "My Light" and "Always Waiting" that they pull a few left turns‚ what with the acoustic lady-wooing on "One Night Stand‚" where Jake sings suavely‚ "Don't be ashamed girl‚ just be a rebel‚" the synth pulses on "My Light‚" and the dynamic space-rock build of "A Better Way." This desire to branch out is almost sobering‚ since they're constantly pegged to a style that seems to always identify with over-indulgence and a lack of sophistication. Maybe years down the road they'll finally give in and release that balls-out rock record that deep down we know we all want‚ but for now I'll wager a bet that they're just gonna keep moving forward. Thankfully‚ their progress should be a blast to hear.