January 23, 2002

Up High in the Night seems to exist in year one. What do I mean by year one? Simple. Arlo sound influenced by years ending in one. Not sure about what the hell I'm talking about? Don't worry, I'm gonna explain it to you all nice-like. While listening to the lovely ear candy of Arlo's lovely debut album, Up High in the Night, I noticed that their influences included classic rock, new wave, power pop, and hints of grunge and indie rock. Taking this notion a little bit further, I couldn't help but notice that each of the tracks seemed to fall under each of the past few years that ended in the number one. Let's examine this Arlo phenomenon a little closer:

1971: The Birth of Classic Rock

In 1971, the Rolling Stones released Sticky Fingers. Badfinger released No Dice. Todd Rundgren released Something/Anything. These albums are but a few of the wonderful records released that year. All of these albums were beautiful in presenting a new, refined sound of Rock music; no longer simple "pop," but on the verge of being "art." Listening to "Oh Yeah" and "So Long," one can't help but think that Arlo once spent a few weeks jamming to these oldies but goodies, and that they all enjoy the occasional rocking out on the oldies stations of their choice.

1981: New Wave of Rock

In 1981, Elvis Costello was the new Elvis of thinking, intelligent music fans. The Cars were just starting to tear up the charts, and more literate rock seemed to be developing out of the quagmire of the new wave, disco, and pop. Less interested in being superstars than they were artists, this new wave of musicians were more interested in craft than bands. Other bands such as Naked Eyes, Plimsouls, and the Stray Cats were revisiting rock's varied history. Up High in the Night is quite indebted to Elvis Costello, so much so that not mentioning EC would be an unforgivable oversight. "Kenji" is the song that owes much to Costello; "Shutterbug," is also wonderfully inspired by the Cars as well.

1991:The Year that Punk Broke

Pointing out the irony of Arlo being on Sub Pop must be done. Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and, erm, some band named Nerdvana or something like that seem to spice up Up High in the Night, and I hear that whole "sub pop " thing on "Forgotten" and "Sittin' on the Aces." 1991 was also the twilight of the Pixies, who, though still relatively unknown, were starting to appear as inspiration for younger bands. No doubt in listening to "Lucid," "Kenji," or "Loosen Up," you'll hear the ghost of Black Francis teaching the ghost of Kurt Cobain the chords to "Surfer Rosa." Unlike the Fastbacks, however, Arlo's role as "token power pop band" seems to be more than just a novelty.

2001:Rock and Roll is here to stay?

Rock has come and gone and come and gone so many times in the past four decades, it's hard to say where it will go next. I'm not Miss Cleo, so don't ask me about the "future of rock." We're in a new era of life; buildings get destroyed by airplanes now, people actually like the crap that's given them on the radio, and nobody has any faith in what rock and roll used to mean. Co-opted and pigeonholed to the point of stupidity, who can blame the average music fan if they just don't care about Rock music anymore? Everything new sounds like everything old, it's been said, but now, we know it's true. Thank god for bands like Arlo, who are creating a nice future by remembering the past.

Is Arlo the most original band? Are they the most innovative? Do they want to be the hipster's reference point? From listening to their debut, Up High in the Night, I think the safest, most accurate answer to this question would be a resounding "no." Like their label mates Vue and Love as Laughter, as well as wonderful contemporaries such as Superdrag, Spoon, and Guided by Voices, rock and roll will never die, and there's hope, there's always hope, that a Renaissance will emerge. With bands such as these, however, the most enjoyable part will, once again, be the music.

--Joseph Kyle

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