Music Music of the Week

MUSIC OF THE WEEK: Tim Rogers & The Bamboos – “The Rules of Attraction”

Review By: Sam Farringdon

Just who the fuck is Tim Rogers these days? Actor? Musical director? Talk show host? Ambassador for the AFL? Or just out and out dilettante? And at what point does cutting a glossy plastic soul record start affecting his hard earned and well deserved rock god cred? Who the fuck does he think he is? David Bowie circa 1974? Elvis Costello circa 1979? Paul Weller circa 1985? Mid career soul albums are usually the refuge of scoundrels; washed up, opportunist, and creatively bankrupt, they’re about as tired a trope as rock n roll itself. And if Rogers’ hasn’t completely abandoned the troglodyte pleasures of the 3 chord wonders on which he made his name, the last decade has certainly found him consumed by creative wanderlust.
The idea of Rogers teaming up for a full album with Lance Ferguson’s Bamboos, seems at best a natural progression of the relationship that spawned a hit (2012’s I Got Burned ), and at worst, a transparent ploy for crossover by both artists – The Bamboos chasing a spike in their audience by tapping the loyal and dedicated You Am I/Rogers base; while Rogers chases the commercial pop success that has by and large alluded him for most of his career. Lead off single ‘Easy’ didn’t quite catch fire the way either party might have hoped; it’s zip and pep and gloss and sheen might have been better suited to a late November release – with the weather warming, and the umbrellas in the drinks, and the girls in their summer clothes – but in late April, it seems like an echo; a distant memory of a party long gone. It doesn’t help that the production seems to suffocate the song within an inch of it’s life, while Rogers’ lyrics in the verse are so busy they’re inscrutable, perhaps compensating for chorus that is so simple it’s trite.
And while those particular flaws aren’t isolated to ‘Easy’ alone, they’re an infrequent distraction to what is otherwise a very fine, and enjoyable record that works surprisingly well – perhaps more often than you’d expect it would. See, Rogers isn’t renowned for his voice; it’s kinda thin and a little bit reedy, and even when he’s sounding fierce, it’s still more a bruised dog yelp, rather than the tough dog bark of more traditional soul singers. In the context of The Bamboos’ previous cast of stellar guest vocalists, its tempting to suggest Rogers might have been better advised to write the songs, but relinquish the vocal duties. Credit where it’s due though – I’ve gotta say though, it’s remarkable how well Timmy holds his own, and he particularly shines when Ferguson gives him a bit of space to fully indulge his roguish charm.

The middle of the record is where the collaboration justifies its existence beyond vanity – the title track, ‘The Rules of Attraction’, pulses with a playful sensuality, employing Rogers’ best falsetto; ‘Handbrake’, resplendent with horns and reverb drenched percussion, struts like a long lost Stax side; ‘Me and the Devil’ thrillingly breaks down on a wipeout guitar line, before Rogers dazzles by packing as many syllables as he can into the middle 8; ‘On Time’ is perhaps the pick of the album, teasing as it is, providing a cheeky wink and a nod on the back of a Cuban groove; while ‘Did I Wake You’ is an impeccably lush and gorgeous ballad that comes complete with dramatic string flourishes, and gives Rogers a chance to trade verses with regular Bamboos’ vocalist Kylie Auldist. Elsewhere, slightly sinister funk appropriately sets the mood for ‘You Can’t Kill A Man Twice’ which evokes elements of Northern Soul; while the giddy and gleeful ‘Lime Rickey’ is also a standout: the most blatant and fearless pop song on the entire record, it’s an obvious choice for follow up single, and it’s sure to get your little sister grooving in between her Miley and her Taylor.

As a whole though, the record does suffer a little bit from too many songs at too similar tempos, meaning that individual songs lose a bit of their distinguishable character and flair. But you know, nothing good is gonna come easy (ha!) and The Rules of Attraction does appeal more on the second, third, and fourth spin, than it does on the first. It might not solve the riddle of Tim Rogers’ identity, though it does add another dignified bow to his artillery. And that’s as much a testament to Lance Ferguson and The Bamboos, whose playing here is nothing short of exemplary – nimble, precise, and with unwavering commitment to the elasticity of the albums’ rhythms: they move your feet and sway your hips, while soothing your soul. So leave your preconceived notions at the door, get on up on the dance floor, and kick out the jams – cos, after all, what are we but one nation under a Bamboo groove?