Leaving Rouge – Elsewhere

Leaving Rouge

Have you ever found yourself in the local Starbucks, discussing the latest episode of The OC, digging through your messenger bag (the one adorned with the Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie patches) for your iPod, and realized you were in an oddly contemplative, pouty mood? Pay attention, you will soon have something to put on the Now Playing section of your latest Myspace blog. You don’t know which? Oh, the one where you bitch about how life never goes your way and you’d give anything to be loved, so on and so forth. Yeah, basically all of them.

Leaving Rouge has been around for four years, and Elsewhere is the band’s second full-length. From what I’ve read, the first album was apparently highly textured and had hints of groups like Red House Painters and Low mixed in. I’d like to be able to comment upon this, as the first album and EP have received beaming reviews, but, unfortunately, the sample songs on the band’s website weren’t available at the time. What I do know, though, is that the band apparently wants to take a more song-oriented approach to music. This was not a good idea.

This album is straight-up power-pop, but it falls short by far of being charming, clever, sincere, or any of the other qualities the strongest bands in the genre usually have in spades. It begins on a misstep with “Skeleton Girls,” a juvenile diatribe based on wanting more from life and being constricted by your surroundings, etc. These same ideas pop up frequently on other songs. You know the kid no one really talked to in high school who consummated his angst by producing embarrassingly bad teenage poetry? It seems that the band sent him an invitation to write all the songs on Elsewhere. Take the dull themes found in the lyrics (retreads on recurring motifs such as relationship problems, alienation, anxiety, blah blah blah), mix with tame instrumentation, make misleading reference to bands such as The Smiths and The Replacements, stir well; the product of this abominable formula is a one-way ticket to Mediocreville. Meaningful, haunting, or affecting at all? No.

Redeeming factors? Many songs have rather enjoyable, driving riffs (“Airports” comes to mind), but they all manage to simply dissipate into the same-old boring structures after no more than 10 or 20 seconds. “Baby I’m Haunted” shows some semblance of good songwriting in sections with flowing guitar lines and an occasional memorable lyric or two such as “And so we learn / We’ve come from nothing and to nowhere we return.” Too bad the tracks sound a good bit alike and the vocals from frontman Sean Hoen sound just a year or two more mature than those currently flooding the likes of MTV and Fuse.

If Leaving Rouge was any more popular, chances are the songs would make random appearances on teen dramas and shoddy mix CD-Rs put together by those who watch said teen dramas. But, they aren’t, so it’s doubtful the band will ever rise from its restrictive obscurity. I would be lying if I saw this as anything to be sad about.