Strutting around the stage, every inch of him adorned like an androgynous peacock, Jann Wilde looks like a man out of his era. His band’s debut, a reckless throwback to a time when male mingled with female and glitter was all the rage, sounds positively revolutionary, even if the ideas are decades old.
Purveyors of glam rock, whether they long for the snotty stomp of the music or the theatrical adornments of the players, will find much to love on Tokio Okei. Each track is a short punch of attitude, spiraling guitars and boisterous energy. Wilde has made public his influences, which are both vintage (think T.Rex and New York Dolls) and contemporary (Sweden’s The Ark, who might as well be the band’s spiritual compass), but Rose Avenue also incorporates elements of eighties pop and new wave into their style. Tracks like “Boys out of New York,” “Lover Lover Lover” and “Every Heartbeat” pulse with a frantic energy that would see them fit in well on the dance floor. The highlight, though, is the self-referential “Mr. Wilde,” which blasts out of the speakers as a giddy glam sing-along. Wilde has compared it to The Ark’s “Father of a Son” in style, and although the lyrics are a bit sillier, the sentiment’s definitely there (not to mention the melody, which is flawless). In fact, the record only falters when it calms down a bit. “Cinnamon” is a lovely wisp of a ballad, but “Metropolis” is a bit lifeless. “Suicide Radio” is one of the noisier tracks, but not nearly as fun as the band’s best.
Taken as a whole, Tokio Okei is a whopper of a debut and heralds the arrival of a band with the confidence to spark a revolution, as one of their songs nonchalantly proclaims. If a bit overlong, it is still remarkably consistent, with at least seven songs that sound like singles. Best of all is the charisma that simply oozes from the album. It is clear even with a casual listen that Rose Avenue is a band not content to simply play their music, but to strut it.