It has been interesting to watch the journey of a band from the viewpoint I have had with La Rocca. I was first introduced to their music via early demos played in my boss' office by Jeff and Matt from Dangerbird Records. Later that week we caught what I believe was their debut NYC performance, where they rocked our socks off. Since then we have been treated to their Sing Song Sung EP, seen them perform both plugged in as well as acoustic, drank way too much with them at the Bowery Ballroom, and have been patiently waiting for the release of their debut full-length album, The Truth.
It is rare that a title accurately describes the music captured on an album, but this one does. The Truth is a no bullshit, no gimmick collection of Guinness-fueled pop-rock gems. These Irish lads (and one English) don't hide under slick production and cool hipster haircuts. Rather than give us another flavor-of-the-week buzzworthy piece of rubbish, La Rocca performs honest tunes that are... well... just damn good.
The album opens up with "Sketches (20 Something Life)," introducing listeners to the throaty vocals of frontman Bjorn Baillie. Yes, an Irishman named Bjorn. Cool eh? The rolling keyboard lines and catchy-as-hell chorus will easily get your toes tapping. Skipping ahead just a bit is "This Life," which features hands-down one of the most infectious choruses you will hear this year, complete with some impressive three-part harmonies.
Comparing an Irish band (3/4 Irish to be exact) to U2 is just too easy, but you can't help it on songs such as "Goodnight." Bjorn smoothes out his vocals a bit as the band softens their sound, bringing in more acoustic guitars and keys. You can add this one to the list of potential hit singles found on The Truth. It isn't all upbeat fun on the album as they slow it down a bit with "Some You Give Away." This particular track, one of my favorites off the album, shows Bjorn at his best, scratchy vocals filled with emotion while wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Another favorite is "Eyes While Open," which kicks off with a Ryan Adams' flavored guitar line. This stomper of a rock tune made me slam a bottle of whiskey down my throat, start a bar fight and get arrested, all while blaming it on being screwed over by the man. Well, not really, but that is sort of the feeling it evokes. Ah yes, then there is "Non-Believer." Again, the thoughts of the mega-hits of U2 come to mind. Catchy enough to get stuck in your head yet filled with enough talent and honest emotion to make it legit. The twinkling keyboards and glistening guitars support one of Bjorn's best vocal performances on the album.
Sure, La Rocca isn't going to be an underground phenomenon, but that isn't what they are about. Their songs are huge and made for the masses. What sets them apart from their competitors is their undeniable songwriting talent and musicianship. Rather than just another mediocre band with one good hit, La Rocca has the tunes and the chops to make the big time... and that is The Truth. No pun intended.