Choo Choo La Rouge
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Reviews and Press for "Black Clouds" CD LP
The Boston Phoenix - 3 of 4 stars

     Choo Choo La Rouge have an affiliation with Boston, but their plaid-shirt-and-jeans rock reaches across the map to warmer climes, maybe to laid-back spots like Athens or Austin. The band's second full-length is a tight collection of smart, unfussy, catchy songs that hark back to those pragmatic ideals of underrated '80s indie pop (think the Reivers, or the DB's), songs about trust funds, mannequins, architecture, stories that are as big as "Elvis . . . or Texas," and, inevitably, the impermanence of it all.

     Singer/lyricist Vincent Scorziello's speak-sing voice keeps things casual, skewing the Velvets-meet-Yo-La-Tengo rave-up "The Relentless Money Love Blues" and the hip-twisting "Here Come the Guns" toward the ironic. Even more unassuming is Choo Choo's rhythm section: bassist Chris Lynch and drummer Jon Langmead helm the year's best stunted-gallop groove on album highlight "Mostly Air."

     Here the band leap and bound against the wind, tiny gears grinding in place. "I really wanted to believe in your shaky masterpiece/But I exhaled and it collapsed into the truth," Scorziello sings, while a guitar chord hangs unresolved in the space between.

- Zeth Lundy, August 10, 2009
Weekly Dig

     Boston's Choo Choo La Rouge were never going to paste a concert flyer to your forehead. But where does that get you in Boston, where even the best bands can be reduced to hucksters in their efforts to pedal the hamster wheel that is self-promotion? OK, so I've resorted to hyperbole. Choo Choo La Rouge aren't even really from Boston anymore. Yet Boston is where the memories live, and where the band still convenes to record and essentially become Choo Choo La Rouge.

     "I guess people want to know where you are from, and this is where we started," says guitarist and songwriter Vince Scorziello. According to Scorziello, spreading out over the East Coast (Boston, Philly and Providence, R.I.) was something that the group viewed as: "Let's see how absurd we can make this. Let's see if we can make it from three different cities." The result was a very good new album (Black Clouds), written, rehearsed and recorded in binges over the past four years.

     "Moving to Providence, getting resettled and having a son put a lot of pressure on me," says Scorziello. But sometimes writers thrive on pressure, and Scorziello seems to have no problem fucking around with the moods here. The sinewy pop of "Black Cloud" finds the band in lock-step, toying with a simple but ominous metaphor; compare to the cheerful strum of "Coffee Spoons," which kindles the forgotten summer but is much more dark. "I had a dream of me doing yard work and having someone you really care about dying in another room," says Scorziello. "The happier you get in life, the more you have at stake.

     "On some of these songs, I'm trying to get away from being clever and getting more into primary colors," says Scorziello. And, to kill the metaphor, I'd say most of these songs sound blue. Not red, as the band name suggests, and oh definitely not yellow.

- Jonathan Donaldson
Village Voice - release show notice

     Lots of bands have terrible names—Kajagoogoo, Enuff Z'Nuff, Juliana Hatfield—so let's not hold this against Boston alt-rockers Choo Choo La Rouge, who twang like Whiskeytown in new album Black Clouds. While the amicable "Here Come the Guns" offers two tickets to the proverbial show, the restrained "It's Gonna Happen Fast" smacks of Wilco without the dad-rock affectations. Full of wisdom, heart, and nasal-perfect vocals, enjoy tonight's Kiam Records showcase the way they do it down in Boston. Which reminds me, did Sam and Diane ever make it work?

- Chandler Levack
Time Out New York - release show notice

     Choo Choo La Rouge is a straightforward indie trio from Boston, whose songs have the rawness of a rock & roll band and deftness of a pop band. Tonight the group celebrates the release of its new album, Black Clouds, which captures a liveliness rare in indieland these days. The album is released on Kiam, a label manned by the great local singer-songwriter Jennifer O’Connor, who warms the stage tonight.
Philadelphia Weekly

     Choo Choo La Rouge has been together 10 years. It took them five years to release their debut LP, 2004's I'll Be Out All Night, and it's taken them another five to finish their sophomore album, Black Clouds, which will finally be released next week.

     The one-time Boston-based trio can blame the delay of their new release on distance. Since their debut the band has splintered geographically, covering a swath of the Northeast that spans Providence, R.I., to Boston to Philadelphia. "You can do recording where you hole up in a studio for days or weeks, getting something out, but we didn't do that. We ended up spreading out the recording over a couple years," explains songwriter Vincent Scorziello.

     Black Clouds is a collection of 10 tunes that put a light-hearted smile on the familiar faces of garage, alt-rock and 60s pop. It all sounds a bit like '90s post-punk bands—Shudder to Think, Nada Surf, Pinback, et al. Scorziello's vocals gently bop and weave amidst unsettling minor-key verses and softly rollicking alt-country melodies. The album seems grown-up. Mature. Tight.

     Again, blame it on the distance. "That gave us more of a perspective because we were forced to step back in the process over and over again and listen to what we had done and decide if we liked it and we should move forward, or if we should go back and redo things."

     But besides that unexpected silver lining, Scorziello good-naturedly says the distance "is just kind of a pain. It definitely slows down what you're able to do, but we feel like we just click musically. We're good friends at this point so the thought of trying to find [new bandmates] just seems kind of silly."

- Katherine Silkaitis - release show notice

     The raging spirit of Mr. Dylan in his surreal, sarcastic, electric-rocking prime lives anew in the music of Choo Choo La Rouge, a scrappy trio trying to get out from under "Black Clouds" (Kiam Records, A-). Partly based in Philly, the group celebrates its album release this evening opening for Amy Ray at Johnny Brenda's.

- Jonathan Takiff

     Choo Choo La Rouge has snark in spades on its new album, "Black Clouds." The band's second full-length album was released Aug. 18 and provides a sardonic look at the world -- kind of like Holden Caulfield, with less anger and more humor. The album starts off on the right note with the wonderfully cynical "The Relentless Money Love Blues," where singer Vincent Scorziello points out, "Money isn't everything. There's love. And gold."

     The album overall is pretty straightforward rock 'n' roll, which is a plus: You don't want fancy arrangements distracting from the joy of listening to the lyrics. "Here's a little dance. It's always in style. You grab a little piece of the past with both hands and spin it," Scorziello sings on "Here Come the Guns," which captures our current political discourse perfectly.

     There are some weak moments, such as on the title track, but "Black Clouds" as an album is a worthwhile pick. Sometimes I like my music like I like my coffee -- cold and bitter -- and this fits the bill.

- Adam Richter
Reviews for "I'll Be Out All Night" CD LP
The Noise

I'll Be Out All Night - 11-song CD

     I used to have a policy of only covering a band once (or at least splitting it between records, shows, and features), so as not to appear favoritist, or some high-falutin' moral crap-stance. But with this release, and a few others this month, I'm forced to bag that thinkin' forever. I'm urgently reminded that it's OKAY to have favorites, to WANNA spew long-winded odes of praise to complete strangers simply because it's the right thing to do. In fact, it's my JOB here. Last I checked, this affable, garage-lite trio used exceptional smarts, hooks and melody to make gourmet meals outta some low-key leftovers, and it sounded like a cool transitional phase. But rather than settling on a formula to strangle, this gentle-but-solid, still-finding-its-way thing IS their actual sound right now, and it works more beautifully than any pre-fab act you can name. One is reminded of a thousand songs here, yet unable to name one. It takes you places you've been while leading you to foggy unknowns, like they've lived your past, and know your penchant for fucking up the future. A strangely soothing, happy-sorta-sadness thing that's elusive but not vague, heartfelt but not precious, simple but not simple-minded, yet muscular enough to keep your ass moving. There hasn't been a situation yet where I've put this on and it didn't feel wonderful.

- Joe Coughlin
Stylus Magazine - StyPod entry

     Although Choo Choo La Rouge's debut is rightly pegged as "intelligent indie pop," thanks to the smart (though not horn-rimmed) lyrics and the grower hooks, this track [The Kind of Noise You Can't Turn Down] which ends the record packs a deeper whallop: where frontman Vincent Scorziello has the indie pop trait of rarely letting down his guard, on this song his voice gapes in drawn-out, melodic ache, pretty on the first listen and downright enthralling by the fourth. This recently shushed a crowd at the Middle East when they opened for the Wrens, and when one guy at the front let out a whoop, Scorziello took a second to thank him - but you could tell he was still feeling the song.

- Chris Dahlen
Pop Matters

     Fun and witty pop rocks from this Boston-based group. Choo Choo La Rouge have their own good time sound, and that's certainly original in itself in this day and age of indie groups pooling together in as much generic clamor as the bands on the majors. Standouts include "Black Sheep", "I Get Lost", "Extinct Music", and "Sinkhole". Sometimes these guys sound like a rattletrap street corner group, and other times they rock tighter than most current bands I can think of. So yes, they can play it straight or serious, and that's what makes I'll Be Out All Night the captivating and charming album that it truly is. This one's definitely a keeper, and should certainly thrill those listeners out there with a thirst for the different without turning into the fringe. Good stuff.

- Jason Thompson
Splendid E-zine

     When we last checked in with Boston-based Choo Choo La Rouge, the threesome was striding punk and alt-alt-c, cranking out sardonically twangy ballads about girls gone wrong and getting totally nuts with their paranoid punk rant "People Are Yelling". Now, a couple of years later, they're back with their first full-length, a very strong piece of work that builds on all the foundations they laid down -- Fall-ish post-punk, Whiskeytown-style twisted trad, soaring power pop and classic rock a la Damn the Torpedos Petty. What they add this time around is a more consistent, more sophisticated voice. I'm not talking about the singing, which is still somewhere between eccentrically distinctive and unpleasantly nasal, but the words, which are smart and interesting throughout. In "Sinkhole", the album's hardest-rocking track, singer/guitarist Vincent Scorziello observes, "Too many records and books with heavy ideas / made a broken home out of me." If you're saying "me too", as I was, you're going to enjoy the disc.

     Highlights here include "Black Sheep", with its sugar-pop "ba ba ba da" vocals and black-humored phastamagories. "She's a Bomb" is shimmering, tense and sexual, its rhythmic guitar line indeed the "killer soundtrack of inevitability". "There's no will to begin with in me/ you try ignoring the sun / you try ignoring gravity," Scorziello explains, locked in obsessive heat. There's an odd line, "I could try to explain, but she's using my mouth," repeated, then a ripped-out guitar solo that sounds like the Edge on a home recorder's budget. "Sinkhole" is perhaps the disc's best song, yelped like a cowpunk anthem, the vocals layered on frantically pushed punk rhythms. You can hear echoes of Buddy Holly and the Fall and Richard Hell, but the sound is all its own, the lyrics self-aware and city-ironic. "Is this like a short story / or an autobiography / Is this a work of fiction or am I singing about me / I can tell you'd like to know / but I can't tell you what to believe."

     I'll Be Out All Night closes with a slow, gorgeous, night-driving ballad, all pounding drums and reverbed eighth-note guitars and late-hour stream of consciousness lyrics. It's a song that flits with a dreamlike intensity from the ghost of Joey Ramone to the eventual death of the sun to a bus-ride home from the bars -- and like the rest of the album, it fits its title, "The Kind of Noise You Can't Turn Down", very well.

- Jennifer Kelly

High Bias

     The latest album from this Dorchester, MA trio continues the easy pleasures of its prior disk Wall to Wall. The band eschews overt stylization for simple presentation of catchy tunes. Memorable melodies, wry humor and guitarist Vincent Scorziello's vulnerable singing make cuts like "Try Using Science," "Black Sheep" and "No One Knows Like You Know" more than just ephemeral ear candy. Nice stuff, this.

- Michael Toland

Special Radio (translated from Russian)

     Choo Choo La Rouge presents their new album "I'll Be Out All Night." Wonderfully done guitar parts, intentionally casual vocals make the Boston team's work one of the most notable releases among the indie-rock performers. It is as if Choo Choo La Rouge follows the footsteps and outlines every step of their famous countrymen Bob Dylan and Jonathan Richman. The album includes such tracks as Black Sheep, No One Knows Like You Know, Sinkhole, and others.

Blurbs for "Wall to Wall" CD EP
"A Boston-based indie rock trio, Choo Choo La Rouge...are part...indie and part roots-rock, with solid riffs and strong lyrics."
- Chris Dahlen

Demo Universe:
"Grand, gorgeous and gritty, Choo Choo La Rouge's six-song debut is a tossed salad of Blonde On Blonde, Astral Weeks and Pink Flag."
- Jim Santo

Splendid E-zine:
"There must be a block or two in Boston where country wiseguys rub shoulders with mohawked punks and ironic scenesters, where Bob Dylan shoots pool with Mark E. Smith and Jonathan Richman. I've never been there, but Choo Choo La Rouge has, and they've brought back a roadmap in their very promising debut Wall to Wall."
- Jennifer Kelly

Improper Bostonian, Best Band 2003:
"This band's debut EP, Wall to Wall, has us holding our breath until they release a full-length CD."