If what the world needs now is indeed love sweet love, then Chicago rocker Dan Rico is here to save the day. With the release of his enthusiastic solo debut Endless Love (Maximum Pelt), the magnificently-coiffed troubadour offers us a collection of power-pop love letters perfect for making out on the couch or knocking back beers at a cookout.
The flirtation begins with “Soft Feeling”: a bouncy tribute to butterflies in the stomach. Its guitars unfurl like a daydream; a bit fuzzy, a bit bright, in no hurry to get wherever they wind up. Dan doesn’t play it nearly as cool, crooning as if he’s overwhelmed by how smitten he is. He’s far more confident sounding on “Endless Love,” which rocks with as much grandeur as that title would suggest. We’re placed at the end of a relationship, guitars are soaring and bursting like fireworks, and the beat is splashing like waves against a rocky shore. It’s a final, desperate plea to save something that could be great, and it shreds.
The record, also produced by Rico, smartly shifts the energy for track three. Rather than try and go over the top of “Endless Love” with more bombast, Dan squeezes in “Kinda Wanna.” It’s a quick punk bopper that winds up being the most chill song so far, despite anxious, fast-paced riffs and drums. Sneak it in on a Buzzcocks playlist at your next party and see if anyone notices (though the lyrics are a bit more Ramones: Guess I wanna girl like you/Hard to please and sporting dumb tattoos). The soulful sway of “On a Tear” leads us down a less light-hearted path, imbued with a sense of insecurity that feels far from the conviction in the promises of the title track. Dan gets even more mysterious on “Smoking Curls,” where he conjures up a ‘70s Lou Reed-style ballad. Each chime of the rhythm guitar lingers for an extra half second and when the lead comes in we get a series of twirling, jazzy melodies. His playing shines again on “Don’t Look Back,” where the brand of love being explored is more about support than romance. Dan cleverly drapes the self-destruction in a veil of twinkling guitars, cooing vocals and sincere optimism. Strip the lyrics away and it still sounds like hope.
Pace and punkiness are increased over the next few tunes- dance rock tilt-a-whirl “Casual Feeling” and garage punk bangers “Wasted Youth” and “Gimmie a Taste.” These are the songs that will probably get bodies moving the most at a show, with “Wasted Youth” perhaps having the most potential for giddy mayhem. The last bit of attitude on Endless Love comes from “Dangerous,” where we get flirty again thanks to a strutting beat and a hook that rattles with swagger. Rico goes full-Bowie when delivering the line How I long to lose my mind in the throes of your love, which might also have more for an excellent album title.
The lights begin to dim with a jangling lullaby called “Cool Cold Heart.” Falling somewhere somewhere between ‘90s teen movie soundtrack and ice cream parlor jukebox favorite, it serves here as the final cigarette before the night ends. Rico sings the song in a higher pitch that shimmers through the hum of his guitar and lets him twist a little extra feeling out of each syllable. The closing track on Endless Love is the least like the rest: a sparkling little synth pomp poem called “After All.” It’s pitter patter and glittery atmospherics swirl around Dan’s airy vocals, creating a surreal, pop dreamscape. The twee-ness is nicely balanced by lyrics that are more Ian Curtis than Marc Bolan, and the way the final notes fall off after the rest of the noise has evaporated makes for an oddly satisfying conclusion to this debut.
Endless Love is available now on vinyl LP from Maximum Pelt Records, or as a digital download via Bandcamp. Dan kicks off his Endless Love 2017 U.S. Tour in Chicago on Tuesday, April 11th at the Empty Bottle (9 PM, $10, 21+).
Full Tour Dates
Tuesday, April 11th- Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
Thursday, April 13th – Thunderbird, Indianapolis, IN
Friday, April 14th – The Dream, Bloomington, IN
Saturday, April 15th – The Sinkhole, St. Louis MO
Sunday, April 16th – TBA
Monday, Aprl 17th – Blackbird Tattoo, Nashville, TN
Tuesday, April 18th – Snug Harbor, Charlotte, NC
Wednesday, April 19th- The Cave, Chapel Hill, NC
Thursday, April 20th – Slash Run, Washington DC
Friday, April 21st – Alphaville, Brooklyn NY
Saturday, April 22nd – Gutter Bar, Brooklyn NY
Sunday, April 23rd – Bug Jar, Rochester NY
Monday, April 24th – Smiling Buddha, Toronto, CA
Wednesday, April 26th, – Kelly’s, Detroit MI
Friday, April 28th, – HIGH DIVE MKE, Milwaukee WI
Saturday, April 29th – Hexagon Bar, Minneapolis, MN