JR and the RetroRyders serve up classic British-influenced rock ran through an American garage band aesthetic and topped off with a dollop of singer/songwriter sensibilities. It makes for an invigorating blend of the personal and familiar, the latter quality dominating, and will effortlessly translate over to the band’s stage work. That is the place where I suspect their full power comes to life and their studio work can only hint at it.
It is the same story for virtually any band, however. But if it’s a hint, what a wonderful hint. The first track on their new EP is “All Summer Long” and listeners will know straight out the chute that they’re dealing with a rock and roll band. JD & the RetroRyders juice up most of their compositions with pop pizzaz, usually centered on the chorus, but there’s ample simple melodic touches present in the band’s guitar playing. The universality they achieve with songs such as this is impossible to ignore.
“Destiny” will be a favorite moment for many. DeMeo and the other musicians rein in their penchant for all-out rock in favor of a slightly more measured approach. The structure is flawless; if there is any question about their craftsmanship, and there shouldn’t be, a song such as this dispels all concerns. Al Lepson’s guitar playing is a spotlight element of the band’s instrumental attack, but so much of what he does keys off Mike Wilson’s drumming. “Destiny” shows some flexibility on this release.
Wilson’s drums lead the band into a rousing guitar rave-up kicking off “I Gotta Know”. It’s go for broke rock and roll with plenty of sassiness to burn and the band sounds confident handling near-whiplash turns and the song’s demanding pace. DeMeo’s vocals are impressive each time out and one of the reasons why is that he accomplishes so much without ever belting out the words. There is real phrasing developed in each song, he probably changes things up a little from one performance to the next, and it lays a fresh coat of paint on an otherwise familiar shade of rock.
JD and the RetroRyders make no pretense about being groundbreakers, however. This is a band designed to do two things, however – they are clearly interested in writing about real life and real people, but they are also looking to entertain. We hear that on the song “Luv You” as JD and his bandmates revisit a familiar songwriting theme with their own style and particular brand of gusto. It is a little bit of a mix of the EP’s styles so far while still retaining fidelity to the band’s core mix of pop and rock.
The closer “She’s the One” is another dyed in the wool love song, but it’s informed with life’s realities rather than viewing the world through rose-colored glasses. It is songwriting with redemptive value – we need music that celebrates life more than ever before. JD & the RetroRyders supply that with a colorful flourish that you will not soon forget.