Rollin Hand (photo: Patric Carver)
You know that cool clerk at every guitar store? The one that’s usually not interested in working in a guitar store but equally disinterested in doing anything else? A musical merchant who majored in Post-Modern History or Sanskrit or something else complex and unprofitable? The only one in the place who knows what he’s talking about? Well, image that four of those clerks got together and formed a band. You’d have Rollin Hand.
That is a by no means an insult. Last Friday at the Uptown, Rollin Hand provided a set stuffed with smart power-pop that was informed and entertaining. There was a nod to nerd rock with Michael Joseph Fragomeni’s delightful vocals. Equal parts deviated septum and rock and roll perfectionist, Fragomeni could have been a student of Rivers Cuomo or John Linnell. His voice is earnest, and a refreshing break from the overly luminous ethereal whisper or pointed screeching that is so pervasive in pop music currently. It’s real and tangible, and, although it is way better than anything I could ever produce in the shower, it’s seemingly attainable.
In fact, this attainable, everyman quality is the deceptive frosting on Rollin Hand’s proverbial cake. Blending together pop styles with nods to surf rock, blues, psychedelic rock, and post-punk, they crafted a punchy sound that was nostalgic, though moored to no time. A less demented and contrived Talking Heads, they wound charmingly obsessive guitar solos with percussive, slam-it-in-your-face refrains. Things never got too cerebral, but they were never too inane, either. It was fun music without being silly. Basslines were clever and solid, the keys were original and memorable, and the drums were steady and hot. Everything you want in a band.
Rollin Hand are relatively new, and I am looking forward to hearing more. They have a sound that is flexible enough to fit in any ear without losing its shape, but they’re quirky enough to stand out from the pack. Quality rock and roll you can enjoy — challenging, but not frustrating.