Jeff Ott had Fifteen. Conor Oberst had Bright Eyes and Desparecidos. Rocky Votolato chooses it to go more along Lifted-Era Bright Eyes, and have a number of individuals back him while he strums along on a guitar. The angsty vocals of Conor can be heard in tracks like “Death-Right”, while hints of Justin Sane’s solo work really seems similar politically (from discussing suicide bombers in “Automatic Rifle” to the Union politics in “Prison is Private Property.”) When no talent hacks like Josie from Saliva or Aaron Lewis from Staind, hell, even Kid Rock try to do the whole bar-stool guitar strumming thing, they pale in comparison to the real Rocky. “Death-Right” has an incorporation of a violin that rivals even Yellowcard in sheer properness and talent, along with poetry that Rocky just ended up calling poetry. Intensity of “Suicide Machine” ebbs and flows like the waves of the ocean, endlessly crashing upon the goliath rock of popular music; perhaps someday we will see the beginnings of erosion of this rock.
While the disc opens off with “The Light and the Sound”, a pretty upbeat track that reminds me more of those fuzzy-recorded shoegazer bands of the late nineties, the sheer fact is time after time, these songs are intensely powerful, and tempered by the emotional and political feelings of Rocky. Moving into the realm of radio-friendly songs with the title track, sounding slightly like a Matthew West or a track with Goo Goo Dolls-like vocals, we notice that Rocky is literally making common conversation into a wonderful sounding track; for example “If this medication upsets your stomach, take it with crackers, bread, or a small meal.” The rich tapestry that is “Suicide Medicine” makes it so the intense traditions of such influential acts as Pink Floyd, Pete Seeger, The Beatles, Radiohead, and the Counting Crows can all intermesh to make something that is definitely more than its parts.
The acoustic is making a powerful come-back in all forms of “punk” music, whether it be the whining of Chris Carabba (Further Seems Forever, Dashboard Confessional), or the aforementioned Midas Touch of Conor Oberst, and the fact is that Rocky should be considered one individual who is ushering a whole new age of collaboration between the typically antagonistic punk kids and those “dirty” hippies who play an acoustic in the park for money. “Suicide Medicine” is more even and strong than the releases it immediately preceded in its genre – Rocky rightfully deserves to be deemed a legend even at this early stage.
Top Tracks : Suicide Medicine, Death-Right
Rocky Votolato – Suicide Medicine / 12 Tracks / 2003 Second Nature Recordings / http://www.rockyvotolato.com / http://www.secondnaturerecordings.com / Reviewed 24 December 2003