How often can you say that a band's reunion album is better than anything it released the first time around? Most of the time, those comeback LPs turn out to be ego-stroking rehashes of what the band did so well the first time — think about the Stooges or Dinosaur Jr. or even Steely Dan. Nothing awful, but nothing close to Raw Power either.
Earlier this week, Rosavelt released their first album in eight years, and in a shocking reversal of how these things usually turn out, The Last 10 Days is the Cleveland band's most tuneful, best-sounding, and all-around greatest album. Ever.
"We've always talked about doing another album," says Chris Allen, who co-wrote 10 Days' 11 songs with Kevin Grasha, the band's other singer and guitarist. "We gave ourselves six months to write and record the songs, and we had a blast. It was just like making the first couple of Rosavelt records. We were back in the garage until four in the morning." (The Del Fuegos' Warren Zanes and local bluesman Austin "Walkin' Cane" Charanghat also get co-writing credit on a couple of songs.)
Not too long after they released their third album, 2004's The Story of Gasoline, Rosavelt called it quits. They'd had a good run of eight years, perfecting their rugged and twangy roots rock along the way, inspired by the '70s, '80s, and '90s music they grew up and got drunk on — from the Stones to the Replacements to Wilco.
Allen released three solo albums after the split (he also plays in about 67 bands around town); Grasha moved to Lansing, Michigan, where he's now a reporter for a daily newspaper (he's also released solo records as the Amprays).
Over the past couple of years, Allen and Grasha got together with bassist Tom Prebish for a few reunion shows. Dave McKean, who plays with Allen in the Pogues cover band the Boys From the County Hell, joined them on drums. It wasn't long before they started talking about a new album.
Last year, the band headed to the North Carolina studio owned by Mitch Easter, the former Let's Active frontman who produced R.E.M.'s first two albums. They brought along Don Dixon, who worked on those R.E.M. albums with Easter back in the day, to produce. (Dixon — who lives outside of Canton with his wife, singer-songwriter Marti Jones — also produced The Story of Gasoline and Allen's solo albums. He'll join Rosavelt onstage at their House of Blues show this weekend.)
"We put ourselves in the mode of back in the day," recalls Allen. "Lyrically, a lot of that stuff suggests who we were when we parted ways. But it seemed like there was some pressure putting on the old Rosavelt moniker. You start to wonder Is this good or complete shit?"
From the opening "Are You Listening," which sounds like Wilco back when they actually wrote songs instead of mood pieces, to the highway rocker "Come Find Me There," The Last 10 Days packs a lot of sounds into its 36 minutes. With the exception of a couple of leftovers from older sessions, Allen says everything was written specifically for the new album.
And from the sound of things, this reunion could turn out to be a full-time gig again. "I'm not going to lie — it was an extremely expensive record," says Allen. "But we decided we're going to start another record next January, unless we completely lose our ass on this.
"But then again, it's not like that's gonna stop us."