R.O.C. – Virgin

R.O.C. Virgin, Melody Maker 20/9/97

The purity of eclecticism. That point where references become utterly irrelevant and the whole takes over. In these days where the genre mishmash is as commonplace as retro-purism, the shock of (con)fusion no longer exists. The only only important issue would seem to be “just how cool are these references?” ROC, thankfully, fly in the face of the cool brigade. Their references are as broad as the Severn Bridge, from Velvet Underground to Phil Spector, DJ Shadow to Kraftwerk, kitsch rock to Europop, but that doesn’t matter because ROC still make it sound like they’re treading through virgin territory. Hence the title. Last year I suggested that ROC live were a bit like Sarah Records on the day they discovered trip hop – wimpy, thin and eminently dull. However, with Idid Amin samples and frantic headrush beats, the opener “Dada” pisses on that observation from a great height. “(Dis)count Us In” – a recent MM Single of the Week – finds a flock of sheep beating the old wolf to within an inch of its life before “Mountain” ushers in just a hint of Lou Reed-esque depression (“Berlin” with its walls down?). However they do fall into those 80s indie sensibilities occasionally. “Ever Since Yesterday” is a gutless wonder that makes The Cardigans sound ballsy while the sickly Euro schtick of “Cheryl” is only one step away from a Gina G outtake. Yup, that bad! But wait. The rest of this album is brilliant. A smelted ore of sublime rhythms, aching ambience and solid gold pop action. The aching sound of sweat on flesh, the psychedelic hues of oil on water and the poisonous fumes of ancient landfill. Toxic euphoria. “Virgin”, impure as the polluted snow.

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