Choo Choo La Rouge: Black Clouds

Choo Choo La Rouge
Black Clouds
(Kiam)

Choo Choo La Rouge must be familiar with the saying “a job worth doing is a job worth doing well.” Because not only is this a well-done album, but even though this is their second album, they’ve been together for a full 10 years. Partly that’s because the three members live in different cities: Boston; Philadelphia; and Providence, Rhode Island, yet decided to stay together because doing otherwise just didn’t make sense. The final result of their sporadic playing and thorough revising is a fun, sophisticated set of 10 songs heavy with caustic humor, minor chord progressions, and infectious hooks.

For the most part, Vincent Scorziello’s casual speak-sing voice is somewhat of a cross between Lou Reed and Craig Finn of the Hold Steady (and more Bob Dylan on the alt-country song “I’m a Truck”). It’s the perfect voice to channel his matter-of-fact way of making sense of the world. “Money isn’t everything – there’s love and gold,” he points out on “The Relentless Money Love Blues.” Later on “Mostly Air” – one of the most fleshed out songs – he muses that his favorite architect/storyteller was only building stacks of empty stories: “it was mostly air.” Even the band’s comical name comes from the disturbing class gap, as it’s the part of the subway system in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that connects working class neighborhoods and “Ivy League sanctuaries.”

Yet while Scorziello sees things with a dark humor, the overall sentiment of the music is anything but dark. The entire album has an upbeat, even bouncy feel (especially, ironically, on “Here Come the Guns”) that makes you want to dance more than brood. The “black cloud” featured on the title track may be a “tumor in the sky,” but Choo Choo La Rouge gaze at it with a carefree dreaminess that only a song and dance man could convey.