ROME 56 – Paradise Is Free

Think Like A Key 2024

Take your off coats: there’s no dress code in heaven – it’s that simple up there in the sky.

ROME 56 –
Paradise Is Free

Back in the late ’70s, THE SHIRTS used to occupy the same pop end of punk spectrum as BLONDIE, the two female-fronted ensembles frequenting the CBGB stage; but the latter stayed on and the former broke up in 1981 to occasionally reform to support the club before getting together for two more albums. Still, it looks like 2010’s “The Tiger Must Jump” might be their last-ever offering as, since that record’s release, the band’s founding member Artie Lamonica’s ROME 56 have also delivered five longplays, counting this one, which is arguably the best of the bunch and a testament to the timeless simplicity of the multi-instrumentalist’s songs. Yet whereas a few of the dozen numbers on “Paradise Is Free” – including the platter’s handclaps-propelled, hypnotic title track – don’t require other musicians, not even Artie’s wife and creative partner Kathleen, to get into the listener’s psyche, the tunes seem plain only during the first spin.

This is why, perhaps, there’s no need to build momentum here, and “The Man Behind The Man With A Gun” immediately gets the album into gear by letting guitars roll in a powerful wave and gently rock the song’s memorable refrain, the main man’s acoustic strum and his missus’ piano supporting Loek Nooter’s electric lines with rare elegance, so fitting for the mystery-molding lyrics. But then, the Lamonicas delve into a Dylanesque psychedelica of “Hustle Of The Crowd” in which six-string twang and synthesizer’s swooshes create a space-to-earth soundscape, and “Fire In The Sky” rides a folksy riff into the solemn sunset filled with sweet vocal harmonies – as opposed to a funny, albeit just as dreamy, “The Midnight Sun” that’ll appear later on – until the organ-padded “Seattle” introduces a dryer groove to the flow. Yet if “Dry Ice” should bring a smile to many a face by beginning with “I give you hope, you give me hell” teaser, “At The End Of The Street” picks its patinated, almost orchestral romance where a certain James Carr perennial left off; and if “Invisible Man” loses impetus to allow lysergic sonics seep in, the drums-driven, robust “A Simple Way To Go” comes soaked in retrofuturistic reveries.

However, while faux-orchestral “Some Say” oozes gorgeous balladry, the nocturnally vibrant “Give Myself Up To You” finds the album finale in a blues-based filigree which is bound to grip any heart that’s ever known love. It’s for them that paradise is free, after all – they’re not too meek to inherit the earth.


May 7, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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