Stepping out to the front of the stage can be a daunting decision for a performer. Richey Rose best known as the guitarist and collaborator with songstress Jennie Vee has taking the plunge with his first solo EP release Stay Cruel. The five song collection is a worthy debut effort from an immensely gift artist. The release is an engaging slice of dreamy alternative.
Rose recorded Stay Cruel at Shoebox in the Sky in NY, NY. He produced, wrote and performed all of the songs on the release. Jennie Vee lends a hand on the bass on the first two songs. Rose originally from Lexington, Kentucky, calls the Big Apple home and in addition to providing guitar for Ms. Vee, also was the songwriter and guitarist for the band The Vicious Guns. Richey has been playing in local punk bands since he was 13. Over time he has endeavored to mix Left Coast Punk and British New Wave with the influences of his Southern US upbringing; the results of which make for a unique brew of heady musical goodness.
On Stay Cruel,Rose is a magician combining the very best sounds from his revered musical icons and transforming them into his own unique musical vision. It is not surprise that the guitar work on the EP is impeccable and fresh, but the real surprise is the scope of his vocal abilities as they reveal themselves over the course of the release. The first track Legit (That’s what I want) begins with a beautiful acoustic guitar, it then shape-shifts into a blending of guitar and vocal styling reminiscent of The Smiths, REM and Bob Mould. It is an energy filled song perfect for a sunlit summer drive. The song is expansive with a spiraling sonic goodness that makes it very likable. In the song’s lyrics Rose seems to be standing at a crossroads reviewing the past and trying to figure out the future. “I was twenty-three when I wrote this song, but now I am twenty-nine.” It is a great kickoff to the EP.
Head is a Pixiesque song, with a vocal that would make Black Francis proud. Here is the punk vibe Rose adores. Along side the awesome reverb guitar there is a nice post punk feel with flashes of Jesus and the Mary Chain in the mix, but all manifesting themselves as Rose’s own original concoction.
The song Cruel displays yet another dimension to the EP as a psychedelic expansive Wilco influenced tune. It serves up the emotions of confusion, betrayal and disbelief at the end of a relationship. Rose asks why the ex lover in question is being so cruel. “Why do you act so cruel to the friends we share? Are you going to go and drop them?” The betrayal in the song is the disappointment of realizing the lover you idealized is indifferent to knowing anything about you and the relationship was one sided. “… why you act so surprised to see me over here don’t you know I come here often?” The instrumentation draws you into the emotion of the song.
The Pain is Real is a toe tapping rocker that again has elements of Jesus and the Mary Chain imprinted throughout. The engaging song ponders the banality of the NY music scene. Pointing out that renown isn’t as great as it seems. “I’ll never be a fashion model, I’ve got twenty women and 19 regrets.” Here again the music perfectly backups the feeling in the lyrics displaying not only Rose’s excellent orchestration but his apt songwriting skills.
The final song on the EP is Sad Girl, Happy Hour a ballad that conveys all the heartbreaking angst of a girl drowning her sorrows at the bar. The track has evocative ethereal vocals and a floating trippy feeling that mirrors the girl of the song spiraling downward in her alcoholic binge, “two beers and a whiskey sour, once more but a little bit louder.” It draws the listener into the character’s sadness and you find yourself hoping it ends with only a wicked hangover and nothing worse, as it could go either way. I enjoyed the entire EP but I love this song, a definite “do not miss”.
Stay Cruel could be interpreted as a tour of New York City’s mean streets on any given summer weekend, where you will encounter various characters; the aspiring musician, broken hearted lovers, the burnt out has beens. It is a captivating amble with a stellar musician and songwriter as your guide. Stay Cruel is a strong debut release that will leave the listener looking forward to a long play recording. It is available at Bandcamp.