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Album Review: Black Gold – Rush

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Some may say that Brooklyn, New York has taken over as the center of the independent music world within the past decade. While it’s debatable on both ends of the musical spectrum, there’s no denying the multitude of bands that have spawned from its streets. The duo of keyboardist/singer Eric Ronick and drummer/mult-instrumentalist Than Luu, also known as Black Gold, certainly shine through on the wingtips of their full length debut, Rush.

After catching first glimpse of this group back in November of last year, something was definitely going on in the air. The duo backed with a few musicians came to Chicago and displayed a heartening good show, but the kicker here existed only in a limited EP from the band. No demos, no debut album, nothing…until now. Why the time warp? Well, for starters, this young group certainly left a lasting impression right away that’s difficult to achieve. Because of the previous viewing, the songs that form Rush were performed the night of that show and needless to say, that’s a very satisfying result. To put it frankly, these guys know how to get people’s attention.

From the get-go, Rush starts the album off with a subtle bang with “Detroit”. Slow, whisper-like crescendos from Ronick’s keyboards slink in and out behind Luu’s restricted but integral beats. Ronick’s vocals shine through as the frontman displays a rarity in vocals nowadays: they’re poppy and instantly catchy while providing rock & roll integrity. Think a very young Elton John attempting to write “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” in the 21st Century.

While “Detroit” switches between disco infused keyboard rock and soulful balladesque vocal parts, “Plans & Reveries” brings this excellent hybrid of musical influences to another level. In the vein of legendary UK pop rockers Squeeze, Ronick’s vocals and piano harmonies certainly would bring smiles to the faces of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze’s primary songwriters. Ronick proves not only to be a gifted singer, but his piano playing is exquisite and well performed. The chord structures that weave in and out throughout combined with Ronick’s vocals set the band apart from their contemporaries, especially during the extremely catchy chorus: “All your plans and all your reveries/Stagger on/While your tin gods are left behind.” Ronick’s pop tinged edges and Luu’s impeccable musicianship together work well and provide a solid foundation for this young Brooklyn outfit.

What follows next sees the band divulge into harder influences that pay off big time. While “Breakdown” is another nice slice of slower paced pop rock, the band hits a major home run with one of the album’s best songs, the scandalous tale of infidelity, “What You Did”. As the band switches gears to a much faster uptempo, both the keyboards and guitars progress the song with thick, flavorful grooves. Throughout this album, Ronick’s vocals are top class, but here it takes the cake. The bitter tale of a relationship reaching its infidelity period and catching the significant other in the act by far has been a subject of many a song, but Black Gold puts an entirely new spin on it and chalks up on my board one of 2009’s best songs by far.

Coming back down to Earth just a bit, the band follows up with the lonely lovers’ tinged ballad “Silver”, the midtempo rocker “Shine”, and the indie-on-the-go “Idols.” Black Gold on their freshman debut takes what the streets of Brooklyn offer, add an enormous dosage of the UK pop scene to the mix and somehow chew through the  fat to create a remarkably original sound. This is emphasized on the six and a half minute piano journey “Canyon”.

Piano rock in nature is a hard concept to improve on, but as aforementioned, these guys do it with a specific degree. They combine Elton John’s left hand, Billy Joel’s right hand and the overall human adventure of everyday life into one elegant stream-of-consciousness atmosphere. People will be people and Ronick nails the emotional aspects of loving, losing and the only way to venture onward. Things are just getting started for this young duo, and it’s too early to tell, but they just might be this generation’s Elton John & Bernie Taupin. Don’t spin that roulette wheel just yet, but spin Rush if you want a different approach to something everyone’s talking about. Something from nothing and everyone is everyone, that’s the entire feeling Rush presents here and yeah, it’s a refreshing breath of fresh air.

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