Zed recently turned me onto this guy, and I've become fairly obsessed with his work ever since. The formula is simple, and been used a million times before - a man, his voice and an acoustic guitar. I'm not going to claim to be an afficienado of the whole singer/songwriter thing, but I know what I like, and I like Rocky Votolato.
His voice is rich and dynamic, ranging from falsetto highs to a near scream. No matter how he approaches a particular song, his voice is always strong and beautiful. Equaling the intensity and diversity of his vocals, the subject matter explored ranges from political and societal disgust to ordinary life.
The opening track "The Light and the Sound", as with several other songs on the record, features additional instruments. While the accompaniment of drums, bass and Rhodes piano add much to the song, they do not distract the listener from the main attraction. The vocals start at whisper, and gradually build in intensity as the song progresses. "If I have to crack open your skull, with my fist... I'll let the light and the sound escape", seems to be a desperate plea to a friend to open up and expose themselves, or perhaps explore life to the fullest. This theme also surfaces in other places on the record.
"Death-Right" is a melancholy number, cautioning those whose fear of a cruel, corrupt world keeps them from living their lives. "You'll die young if you live so carefully" he wisely warns. Further into the song, Rocky implores the listener to unshackle themselves from their fears, fight their predjudices and experience the good that this life has to offer, even if it's sometimes hard to find - "Something here is still innocent / It doesn't matter if you decide not to believe it / There are still places where the magic can breathe / I want to breathe it in / I want to lay down and never leave". In addition to beautiful lyricism, and vocals to match, a violin adds a haunting dimension to this powerful song.
"Prison is Private Property" marries some impressive guitar work (which, I'll add, is recreated faithfully in his live performance) and angry, half spoken, half yelled lyrics dealing with the corruption present in our time. Rocky attacks corporate thieves and materialism, as he vows, "I'd rather starve than be a whore for an empty living." Pretty heavy stuff. I don't always agree with those espousing an anti-capitalistic viewpoint, but I think his criticisms are healthy, honest and accurate.
If you're looking for an intelligent, vibrant and raw record, Suicide Medicine will not disappoint. If you're tired of stereotypical "guy with a guitar" music, then Rocky is your man. Opting for a more folksy, telling-it-how-it-is, down to earth vibe, as opposed to an unmemorable, "woe is me/girls hate me" sort of thing, Rocky Votolato sets himself apart. On a final note, I'd urge people who've heard, and disliked his earlier solo material to give this record a listen, as it's an undeniable showcase for his progression as a singer and songwriter.
9.0 / 10
Only recently the consensus had been reached in my household that the time for a new Rocky Votolato album was long past due and a lengthy re-visitation of his solo ...
Rocky Votolato has been a busy man of late. He released last year's Makers to wide acclaim and only just recently re-issued A Brief History with his long time collaborators ...
Posted Jan. 31, 2016, 11:53 p.m.
Rocky Votolato will be releasing his new EP, Sawdust & Shavings, on February 4th via Near Mint. The EP features stripped down versions of songs from his 2015 release, Hospital Handshakes ...
Posted May 6, 2015, 1:53 p.m.
On June 2 SideOneDummy is releasing a split 10" between Chuck Ragan and Rocky Votolato. The record is titled Kindred Spirit. Ragan released Till Midnight last year.
Posted Nov. 25, 2014, 6:04 p.m.
Charity compilation series Fourward: Volume 3 is now available from Old Point Light. The series raises funds for the American Cancer Society and Johns Hopkins Myositis Center and features tracks ...
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