Irony has never been sexier. Not irony-as-snark, but irony-as-kiss – Roses is a lipsticked pout that seduces and destroys, filtering late 60s/early 70s masochistic songwriting through disco and “Purple Rain” synth sheen. You know it’s damaged, but damn can it dance.
The songs are patient, generally starting quieter and more self-conscious before building to a hooky payoff a section or two in, as if Roses suddenly cast off the pall of boy-needs-girl with a wave of a glittered hand. Wait a minute or so for some combination of tambourine, strutting bass, girl group sing-along, and gagged kick drum to let loose. Andrew Grant Tobiassen hangs on his consonants like a leather-wrapped Marc Bolan. I shimmied in my desk chair.
The influence of post-Cale Velvet Underground is sonically palpable, beyond the cover of the slow version of “Sweet Jane.” There’s the stereo spread of cherub-tear-clear guitar strums and bends, or the hymnal organ and close but sloppy harmonies of “So Very Wild.”
But more impressive is how Roses carry on Lou Reed’s lyrical tradition of being honestly vulnerable without being pathetic; of being cruel, but mostly to yourself. Take the bridge from “Get it Right,” “Why do I always want another / I should just give you lots of love”: is this guy using a string of lovers, or is he emotionally dependent on a romantic companion? Either way, this is a frank line neurotically twisting bubblegum tropes in the image of Reed’s “I found a reason to keep living / And the reason, dear, is you” (the latter line of which Roses quote in “For Some Reason I Got Scared”).
This is not to say that Roses feels derivative. They just spill their guts musically and lyrically and want you to play in the hydrant gush. Roses gape their plush glam hearts from the get-go, seeming to relish the romantic crush and the crush of romance with equal fervor. Sweat and tears taste about the same, after all.