Danny Rocco - The Future Is Now
Record Label: Oort Records
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2008
Danny Rocco. The name sounds innocuous enough. Certainly not that threatening nor inspiring. In fact it sounds a little too run-of-the-mill. Turns out, this Long Islander is pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. His debut album The Future Is Now is the very sure sign of an incredible talent and a name many will want to remember in the months to come. Whether it's as the guitarist and co-founder of the high-energy dance-rock quintet Show Me Action or in his auspicious solo career, this 20-year-old definitely has a future in music for years to come. While it's hard to gauge the maneuvers record labels will pursue, there's a lot of reasons to think Rocco's solo career will propel him to wider acclaim.
While it seems like lofty praise, it only takes one listen to this disc to see that their is surefire star power. Opener and title track "The Future Is Now" has all the hallmarks of a radio-ready song. It's buoyant, its uplifting, and its catchy as all heck. The song that follows, "Rise Out of the Water," is equally catchy, if not more so. While he probably won't enjoy hearing the comparisons, there's a little bit of Rob Thomas and early day Matchbox Twenty in both the guitar lines and the vocal melodies. Third song "Holly Grows" is a gentler song, aided by a supple acoustic strum, that attempts introspection. The most memorable part of the song though is the lush orchestration, which Rocco, a violinist, composed himself. It has all the trimmings of standard album ballad and it works well. Fourth song "Roads" follows and its by this point one might think the talking heads might want to take notice. It's a propulsive, hard-driving rock song with an indelible chorus and has the kind of power that warrants a repeat listen.
Rocco turns down the pace on "They Fight, They Fall," an acoustic-fueled look at mortality that unfortunately is one of the only lyrical triumph on the disc. The minute-long acoustic ditty "Interlude" which follows is the other and while it's title suggests instrumental, it's anything but. What the song does serve as though is a break for the listener, filler, if you will. And while there are numerous artists that might get shortchanged for using this tactic, with this album it works quite well. Whereas numerous rock-based singer/songwriters might feel compelled to pack an album with one flatlining rocker after another, Rocco seems to understand the importance of variety and its probably his most endearing trait. While "Run" turns up the tempo to a level not yet seen before, it's actually a misstep that seems a little too self-indulgent and a bit forced.
Thankfully he backs up his error with the gorgeous chime of "As You Wait," a song that seems destined for a movie soundtrack. "Outta Sight" follows and it's an interesting break and one that feels a little out of place here. With the exception for a few verses and the shared vocal chorus, Show Me Action lead singer Jack Tangney (who also co-wrote the song) takes center stage here. While it's admirable that Rocco would want to highlight his musical wingman, it's a bit of a puzzling move. The song has a late 80s acoustic ballad feel to it and it just feels awkward and uncomfortable. "My Way" follows but doesn't hold a candle to anything else on the disc and the hometown ode "Rockville Centre" is a pretty song that probably could have benefited from better lyrical territory.
For all its highpoints, The Future Is Now is far from perfect. While Rocco's vocals can certainly carry a room and leave a strong impression, there are times the vocals seem nothing more than average. And then there's the lyrics. While it's true that these days lyrics seem to be thrown out the window, it doesn't hurt to at least put a few solid lines together. There are a few, but not nearly enough to be impressed. That being said, of the eleven songs on The Future Is Now, there's lots to remember, and very few to forget. In the end, isn't that we all want?
At the core, these songs are propulsive, delightful laments on love, hope and all that makes the world go round. Backed by the band End the Stars, who serve as studio musicians and also co-producers, Rocco is lucky to have found a home in Oort Records, an offshoot of Lobster Records, which served as the home to Yellowcard way back when. No, there's no new ground broken here, but what there is, is solid musicianship and enough songs to fill up a summer mix CD. Tracks like the soaring "As You Wait" and the pensive "They Fight They Fall," reveal an arresting power and maturity beyond his years. At just 20 years of age, Rocco is certainly onto something solid here and it'd be shocking if his career doesn't live up to this firm praise.