he first track on Dublin-by-way-of-L.A. band La Rocca’s debut album is called “Sketches (20-Something Life),” which is as good a title as you can ask for such a representative slice of the quotidi-rock currently mushrooming from marketably accented portions of English-speaking Europe. It’s a decent song, headlong and a little catchy, duly scrubbed of anything region-specific and made ready for the teen-drama opening credits it’ll no doubt soon be soundtracking. But the rest of The Truth won’t even make it to montages—it’s pure rock-by-numbers, an inert collection of pounding would-be anthems (“Sing Song Sung”) dutifully interspersed with draggy ballads (“Some You Give Away,” the title track) that play like rejected cover versions of songs from Exile on Main Street.
It’s not that the band doesn’t have its moments. La Rocca’s chiming, percolating guitar isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but it’s nothing you haven’t liked before either, and songs like “Non Believer” and “Eyes While Open” lay pleasant enough foundations. But singer Bjorn Baillie yowls through every half-finished melody from the scratchy depths of a dime-a-dozen Vedder throat, and any notions of variance or invention with which the band seems to toy at the beginning of each song are eventually crushed beneath slabs of 4/4 grinding and lyrics halfheartedly plucked from the Jagger/Richards songbook. The title track winds its way back over and over to a drawly, loping chorus full of shadows and lonely gallows, a sparkless, humorless “Dear Doctor”; “Eyes While Open,” the obligatory mainstream-music-sucks track, is broke-man’s Dylan, which means that when Dylan gets mentioned somewhere in the second verse it might be kinda clever, but you can’t be sure. Producer Tony Hoffer, who was responsible for Beck’s decadent masterwork Midnite Vultures—an album that at least sounded awesome—compresses everything into a muddy roar that pushes La Rocca’s AOR drawl further into anonymity.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a classicist approach to rock. Inventive, worthwhile music has been constructed on the worn foundations laid by Dylan and the Stones—it’s not like they themselves weren’t studiously copying every blues song they heard—and cigarette voices like Baillie’s have wound their way ‘round verses before without bringing the old masters so distractingly to mind. But even imitation requires a spark, some flicker of identity that’s not a composite of a dozen photocopies, and The Truth has none; it’s faceless and functional, utilitarian to the bone. This is the Communist architecture of rock ‘n’ roll.