Album review: Pacific Radio’s ‘Pretty, but Killing Me’

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Album Review: Pretty, but Killing Me – Release date December 8, 2017

Recently I came across a video by an LA-based band Pacific Radio called “Camaro” and was totally smitten! The song had a really cool guitar and bass riff, a bouncy beat, and could be deemed “alt rock”—and I was hooked.  Their 12-song debut album Pretty, but Killing Me is released today on December 8th and it may be one of my favorite albums of the year. Rock At Night’s Philly journalist/photographer Andrea Ramirez-Maciolek totally agrees that every song on the album is catchy and infectious. You can check out her interview with lead singer/songwriter Joe Robinson.

A quick description of the album is “hard-driving rock songs with a retro feel—from 50s to 60s surf rock to 90s alt rock—all elements are there.” Even the album cover appears as a Mondrian print, which enhances the retro feel (I understand it may be coming out in vinyl in the future too).   All of the songs are upbeat and danceable with “women and love” as the focal theme and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor (just check out the video for “Kitchen Table” and you’ll see what I mean).

Here is a quick description of each song as I listen to the album:

Smile—A hard-driving feel, infectious riffs, and certainly a retro rock sound with a positive message as the chorus sings “right behind your smile”. The song slows down in the middle, kicks in lead guitar distortion, and hops back on the merry-go-round again, continuing with the main melody.  I really like this song!

Whiskey Girl—Very cool bass and guitar riffs that create a fast, and danceable beat, with hints of a 60s feel—and again, “a girl” as the central theme.

Katie—”Girls” again but a specific one!  The song starts with vocals and then kicks in with full guitar, bass, and drum accompaniment. The guitar and bass in unison almost have an 80s, U2 sound.

Kitchen Table—A very cool bass intro and lead guitar riff are immediately noticeable as well as the alt-rock drum beat. The lyrics are humorous and one can visualize a girl throwing a “tape deck out the window,” as the song suggests.

Weekend—The song has almost a hard-driving ska feel and it is definitely a “party song”.  In the middle, it dramatically slows, with the lead guitar taking on a Led Zeppelin tone. Sweeeeet!

Camaro—The song has a very cool, infectious riff, a bouncy beat, but is definitely rocking in full alt rock style.  This song will stay in your head long after the CD is over.

Last Night’s Make-Up—Ok, with the title alone I am getting a visual of an overnight stay after nightclubbing…This song paints a funny scenario we all can relate to interlaced with cool guitar riffs, an alt-90s rock feel, but then takes on an unexpected twist in the middle of the song as it breaks into 70s glam rock mode. Think T-rex with its bouncy vocals claps, and 60s “pony” beat. I’m totally lovin’ this album even more now since the band is not afraid to experiment and draw on different inspirations.

Tight Jeans—Here we go with the girls and sex theme again (well, it is rock & roll). This song also has a glam rock feel (I actually thought of The Struts) with its “na na na’s”.  It thing breaks into lead guitar solos, chord changes, and strong rhythm guitar that made me think of Thin Lizzy—a very 70s, radio rock sound.

Dancin’—This song has a 60s surf rock beat with its guitar and drumming with sprinkles of 50s rock.

LA is pretty (but it’s killing me)—Up until this point of the album, everything is hard-driving party rock but this song can be described as slow, 50s, R&B. It’s very pretty and the kind of song which you wanna’ just grind on 😉

Show Me—The song starts off slow and definitely is a pretty ballad at first but later speeds up into a full-blown, hand-clapping, sing-along. I would describe the genre as alt rock with country guitar twangs.

As I am listening to the album my thought is “This is a Summer album. Upbeat. Fun.”

Time to Heal—For sure this is a slow romantic song about lost love. The beginning consists of stripped down vocals and an acoustic guitar, giving the song a folksy feel. The song says, “it’s sad but I understand, we all need to heal.” Lovely, boys!

Overall, this album should appeal to folks that enjoy alt rock or real music with lyrics one can understand and relate to with a touch of humor. If you like Weezer or Foo Fighters, the album might appeal to you. If you enjoy classic 60s or 70s rock (which gets recycled every 20 years or so since it is solid music) or 90s alt rock like Fastball, you will love this album.  Real songs, real rock, and a retro revival are on the rise again with bands like The Struts, Greta Van Fleet, and Palaye Royale.  Pacific Radio can be added to the list of new bands that derive influences from the past but are fresh, energetic, and a welcome addition to my list of new favorite bands of 2017.

Pacific Radio is:

  • JR: Joe Robinson: Guitar and Lead Vocal
  • JS: Joe Stiteler: Bass
  • KB: Kyle Biane: Guitar
  • HS: Hyke Shirinian: Drums







Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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