Lately Baby – Rhett Repko (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Lately Baby - Rhett Repko - ArtworkAs I have mentioned once or twice before, Rhett Repko is one of those artists who have restored my faith in the musical middle ground. Even those last three words seem like a slight or a deprecating statement but believe me it isn’t meant to be. If the fringes are either places where late night experiments, generic-splicing and the forced fusion of musical styles takes place or, at the other extremes, merely the creative treading of water to make music that requires rose tinted retro-spectacles to fully appreciate, then it is clear that he doesn’t belong in either. The ground between is where most music is made and, more crucially, where most records are sold and it is here that Repko belongs.

His well-honed pop-rock, as wonderfully exampled by Lately Baby, is a fine balancing act. It balances rock muscle and pop melodics, deft craftsmanship and mass appeal, energy and intricacy, it is exactly what mainstream pop-rock should be but normally isn’t. He is clever enough to swerve cliche and doesn’t deal in the obvious but still he is able to offer something that with the right tail wind and the right people championing his cause, could quickly see him becoming a permanent fixture in the mainstream consciousness.

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Before She Knows – Rhett Repko (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Before She Knows - Rhett Repko (artwork)_phixrIf ever there was a place where the traditions of classic song writing meets the neon glare of the more fickle clubland scene, where rock merges effortlessly into pop, where dance grooves are subsumed into indie eloquence it is in Rhett Repko’s music. There was a time where the most interesting music was made out in the fringes, by non-conformist music explorers, snarling at the mainstream as they did so, but now it would seem that the fringes are mainly bastions of rigid, nostalgic conformity and anyone sticking to those old tribal allegiances in this post-genre world is missing out on what the modern age has to offer.

Rhett Repko is proof that you can work towards a very mainstream and accessible sound and still conduct interesting sonic experiments along the way. Before She Knows is rooted in rock bombast but is tempered my more perky pop poise, it wears indie shades and walks around with its collar turned up and the riffs are built from shimmering electronica as much as guitar grind and groove. Yes, the middle ground is no longer the place of comfort and conformity, it is becoming a place where the most fascinating music is being forged in plain sight. If you want a shot at hitting the hitherto mutually exclusive achievements of integrity and success, Rhett Repko is the man to learn from.

And I Told Her So –  Rhett Repko (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

22780295_1929575750703674_4033104463955799012_nHaving quickly taught me a lesson about books and covers, or at least cynical journalists and their jaded perceptions, the brace of songs that I have got to know Rhett through over the last few months has been exactly what I needed to restore my faith in pop music. And at the heart of the music is something that seems to have been lost along the way, a universal truth that seems missing, a misplaced piece of the musical jigsaw and it is this. Even pop music needs to be well written. Programmed beats, a dance routine and ten words repeated ad infinitum might sell well now that the music industry has a Big Brother-like hold over our musical tastes and cravings, but Rhett, for all his young years, makes music which demonstrably carries that important nugget of pop wisdom.

And hence the result is a song which welds pop sass to rock muscle, places jaunty riffs amongst groovy rhythms, covers the usual lyrical subject matter in a more eloquent way and passes the “am I dancing by the onset of the first chorus” test with ease. In short it struts majestically through a pop-rock landscape, master of all it surveys. I make that three out of three…good work and I’m already waiting for the next one.

Thnx For The Ride – Rhett Repko (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Thnx_For_The_Ride__Single_ArtworkI always knew that there was something a bit special about Rhett Repko. If Where You Ever Really Mine? hinted at the eclectic and adventurous nature of his musical thought process, this new offering really hammers that point home. Last time out he played with nothing less than pop reinvention, a slick re-presentation and the perfect singer-songwriter make over, Thnx For the Ride (not sure I approve of the wilful misspelling though!) however, pushes those genre-hopping ideas a lot further.

Acoustic normality is soon subsumed by big, stadium rock guitars, which in turn get overtaken by reggae beats and if that wasn’t enough, around the edges club culture electronica add wonderful musical motifs and unexpected detail.

Yet again, Repko and his forward thinking troubadours subvert expectation. Pop-rock…or in this case rock that is happy to embrace the popular market with open arms, is a wide genre. But whereas most who make music under its generic umbrella seem content to either polish the rough edges off the usual rock sound or merely pump up the muscle of a pop song to create impact, Repko shows that he is happier conducting music gene splicing experiments and if not creating a whole new musical genre at least show that those generic boundaries never really counted for much in the first place.

Were You Ever Really Mine? – Rhett Repko (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

DSC04714Just as the opening strummed acoustic guitar lines have me thinking “here we go, another earnest, balladeering, unplugged troubadour to wade through” the weight of a full band drops in behind it and suddenly the world seems a brighter place. It would have been easy to follow some sort of angst ridden pop template and aim to tug teen heartstrings; instead Rhett plays a much cleverer card.

Driven rock guitars and punchy backbeats pull the song in an altogether more groovesome direction yet it still understands how to appeal to the commercial market, knows how to work with dynamics and drips with infectious melody. So essentially this is a new take on pop music, yes, pop music, we have spent so long being spoon-fed dance routined, production line dross that we have forgotten that pop, okay, pop-rock can be like this as well. In my book everything is pop music anyway…pop, popular, populist… but let me qualify that a bit.

Pop music is done often, but in general not done well. All too often it is happy to sacrifice creativity for formula, to wander very narrow, established pathways for fear of losing site of the pop-fan dollar. Rhett Repko shows us that if you flip this model on its head, draw in influences from a number of genres, you can write songs, which both appeal to the masses and retain the integrity required by the more discerning listener.

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