From their artful watercolor album cover to their tonal array of jumpsuits, Rookie is quite clearly an aesthetic-minded band. The six-piece Chicago outfit is giving a strong presentation for their self-titled Bloodshot Records debut, telling us with surefire conviction, “This is who we are.” Their blend of lo-fi vocals, slappy hooks, and grungy guitar playing is a potent recipe for pure rock and roll that feels youthful even as it nods to another era. It is no coincidence that the band has shared billing with Cheap Trick, likely some of their musical heroes. Listening to their new record gives the feeling of lounging on a well-worn couch in the basement and cracking open a cold one as you watch a group of your buddies mess around and have a blast.
Whether they’re pounding the keys of a piano in the background of “Side of the Road” or “One Way Ticket” or shouting out sing-along-worthy harmonies on “I Can’t Have You But I Want You” or “Hold On Tight,” Rookie knows how to make an absolute party out of their arrangements. This is the kind of album you just know will sound incredible live. Lead singer Max Loebman fires on all cylinders with his voice, even keeled at times (“Elementary Blues”) and then boisterous and full throttle at others (“Miss United States”).
Rookie is a well-rounded showcase of what this group can do, and a feat considering they’re only a few years into their run as a band. They show as much love for a face-melting electric guitar shred (“E Jam”) as they do for a sly roll of pedal steel (“Sunglasses”). They can be loud and thrashing and then cool and steady, unleashed and then carefully melodic. And that element of aesthetic feels smartly calculated throughout, especially as they channel influences like Big Star and Thin Lizzy. Rookie may just be getting started, but they’re already miles ahead.