Choo Choo La Rouge – Wall to Wall EP

Choo Choo La Rouge
Wall to Wall EP

I’m glad I don’t run a record store, because I wouldn’t know where to file Choo Choo La Rouge’s interesting EP. Mixing a roots-oriented rock sound with indie rock and straightforward bar-rock, you’re either going to love or hate this band. At times, they suffer from a lack of originality, and they tend to play a bit sloppy, but some bands make sloppy rock an art-form, and Choo Choo La Rouge doesn’t suffer from its lack of precision. Instead, the music benefits from a more relaxed approach, and I find that that fault becomes the band’s trademark sound.
The comparisons here have to include Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground, John S. Hall, and maybe even Papas Fritas. That diverse group of styles makes for an interesting approach that varies song to song. “Cards” starts off the album sounding like Lou Reed, following the vocal inflection almost exactly, with a mid-tempo bar-rock sound. The Lou Reed comparisons work pretty well for the band, and I’m reminded of his music throughout the tracks that follows. Getting back under control, “Worse Mistakes” is a pleasant folkish tune, with a relaxed tempo and some banjo picking to liven things up.
The band’s best song, “Ragged Dick,” is an Irish folk-style drinking song, even down to the vocal inflection. I can’t help but get into this song, and it’s also the band’s tightest, reminding me at times of Frames DC. Then it’s back to the quirky bar-rock, a weird Lou Reed-esque sloppy pop song in “Hearsed & Rehearsed” and “In the End” resembles some of the Bare Naked Ladies more mellow pop songs with a bit more of a folk bent. The vocal harmonies work nicely here. And then it’s back to weird, quirky rock with “People Are Yelling,” a lo-fi sounding track that reminds me of Velvet Underground meets Jad Fair meets early Flaming Lips.
So all in all, Wall to Wall is a mixed bag. When the band is on, they’re very on, and “Ragged Dick” can go a long way in making this a favorite release for many. But those expecting consistency throughout or a more indie rock sound might be disappointed. I can’t help but think of this band as a bar band, but not your traditional bar act. I’d see them live over a few pints any day.