CD Review: Taylor Locke and The Roughs “Marathon”

How many people can put out three great albums in a single year? Virtually no one. No one but Taylor Locke, that is. Locke is best known as the guitarist in the powerpop band Rooney, but he is quickly making his mark as a talented solo artist. It was only back in April when he revealed his outstanding debut, “Grain and Grape” and then early this summer we heard Rooney’s latest CD, “Eureka.” Now he throws a collection of 10 new songs at us on “Marathon.” The most astonishing thing is that his work has been stellar throughout. To say the guy is on a roll is an understatement.

While most of “Marathon” is brilliant, it does get off to a false start. The epic opener, “The Honor Role,” sounds like three or four completely different songs loosely patched together. I presume they were going for something that rivaled McCartney’s “Band On The Run” or a Jellyfish opus, but the disparate parts just don’t work together.

They quickly get back into the race with a peppy acoustic driven rocker called “Jenny” and things really start to pick up, ironically, when the band slows it down for the gorgeous “Don’t Forget.” “Don’t Forget” features moving chord changes and a terrific vocal performance from Locke. “My Only Drug” is my favorite track – powerpop at its best, performed with gusto. Another highlight is the undeniably catchy “Badfinger,” which also gives the band a chance to nod to a major musical influence.

Some other tracks come close to being great, but have an irritating element or just feel like they’re missing something. For example, I would love to hear Locke slip up into his graceful falsetto on “One More Time,” rather than struggle to scream it out. In fact, he screams too much on “Marathon” in general, as if he’s trying to prove he’s got what it takes to rock. You don’t need to do this, Taylor.

While not as immediately mind-blowing as “Grain and Grape,” “Marathon” is no slouch and stands heads above most of the stuff we’ve heard in 2010. But after hearing “Marathon” so soon after the debut, one is tempted to coach Taylor Locke and The Roughs to pace themselves. The band could have made a single record this year that combined the cream of the crop from each and that record would have been an instant classic.

iPod-worthy Tracks: 2, 4, 5, 6, 8

Taylor Locke and The Roughs on MySpace