Rochester Fosgate is not the name of a band,
but rather is the alter-ego of musician Kevin Fullerton. He's
based out of Seattle, apparently, and plays light Indie pop
with a quirkiness about it. His music as heard on this self-titled
recording, is slightly acoustic although it does have some force
about it. And although the afore-mentioned quirkiness gets a
bit thick at times, Rochester Fosgate is a fun
There aren't really any liner notes to the album, but I think
that Fullerton/Fosgate pays most, if not all, of the instruments.
And, if he did in fact do that, I have to compliment the guy.
Normally if there's only one person in a band you hear various
mistakes, bad mixes, and missed notes. But this album sounds
really nice, as if he were indeed a full one man band. In this
sense, it reminds me a bit of the time I saw The Lonesome Organist
in concert, although this is a bit lighter in tone and less
raucous by nature.
The album begins with Rotate Freely, a little semi-acoustic number with brushed drumming, a pretty bassline, and alternating higher/lower male vocals (as if there were two singers) on the chorus. It sounds a bit like some retro acoustic singer meeting The Dream Academy, albeit without a xylophone, but you get the idea. Parents' Mistakes comes next, and features a country-esque, yet light, psychedelia feel, as if perhaps one of the old Elephant Six bands had unplugged, and gone West. The voice is very prominent in the mix, and, at one point, the dual vocal lines (which again I think are both Fosgate) try to harmonize with each other. And they almost get it right….which, if you think of it as someone attempting to harmonize with himself, is just off enough to be endearing. And cute.
There, I said it. I hate to the use the word, because it doesn't have any real meaning. Cute is a word I reserve for small kittens, and…well, that's about it, except, perhaps, slightly earnest Indie Rock musicians. And Rochester Fosgate, with the stray harmonies, happy tone, and fairly light instrumentation just screams earnest Indie Rock musician. So, it's cute. And that is neither ironic, nor an insult.
Anyway, with that little rant aside, the rest of Rochester
Fosgate continues in mostly the same vein. Black
Asphalt is another country-esque tune that reminds me vocally
of The Kingston Trio (thanks, Mom and Dad!). In contrast, One
Way Streets comes across more like early The Wedding Present,
albeit with an acoustic focus and a summery pop sound. And Geologic
Time bridges the gap between acoustic 60s style singer/songwriter
and the more psychedelic work of the 70, with guitar arpeggios
that could recall Stairway to Heaven. It's also the one
song when you can clearly hear the transition between the higher
and local vocal lines
Of course, not all the songs on the album are equally good. Hold 'Em just seems a little blah after the fun of the first four songs. More importantly, My Friend Greg takes quirkiness to an extreme, with the lower vocals sounding suspiciously gothy and drone-y as he repeats the line regarding, "my friend Greg." Finally, Arm and Hesher just doesn't quite match the tone of the rest of the album. It's more of a 70s rock tune, which of course led me at first to think that perhaps this entire album is an elaborate homage to the career of Marc Bolan. But that's another rant, with which I won't bother you. But I have to say the rock thing is completely out of place of this album.
Still, in the end, Rochester Fosgate is a oddly
unexpectedly good album. It doesn't necessarily grab or charm
you on the first listen. But as you sit there, with it going
in the background, you'll find it hummable and pleasant. And
if you decide to examine it more closely, you'll find things
more charming and…yes….cute. So, it might not be the best thing
you've heard all year, but it is a really fun diversion.