Josh Rouse Home (Ryko/Slow River)

SXSW Records

Josh Rouse

Home (Ryko/Slow River)

Knowing that Josh Rouse is definitely not Frank Zappa (or even a wannabe) makes perusing the titles of Home, his second full-length release, all the more curiosity piquing. "Hey Porcupine," "100M Backstroke," and "Marvin Gaye" are not the prototypical titles of a soft-spoken sentimentalist, and they almost belie the warm understatement of Rouse's songs. On Home, Rouse takes the same genteel sonic places inhabited on his debut, Dressed Up Like Nebraska, and nudges the walls out ever so slightly. The result is an array of sometimes comforting and other times haunting space subtlety adorned with vestiges of tormented Brits (Smiths, Cure) that Rouse adores so much. Maybe the forte of Rouse is to take those building blocks and reassemble them with a Mid-American flair into something truly palatable; to take the comically absurd tragedies of Robert Smith and Morrissey and re-engineer them into something intimate. The only pitfall of Home is that it never moves too far from that kind of cocoon. There are times when it seems that this part of Rouse wants to cut loose; but he never does -- though he comes close on "Afraid to Fail" -- and sometimes the songs just don't sound fully realized. Still, as far as flaws go, it is less than fatal, and overall, Rouse has once again produced a small if unpolished gem of an album. (Mercury@Jazz, Saturday 18, 10pm)

****

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