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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

South Shore Vagabond

South Shore Vagabond

Out of the Squantum section of nearby Quincy, MA comes James The Viking, an indie pop rock group with a soulful female vocalist. Led by Colleen Rusconi (who lends her talent to other groups as well, including an afro-beat group called Ujaama), the band consists of Johnny Sullivan on guitar, Colin O’Day on bass, James Rochelle on the drum kit, and Steve McCracken (roadie/merchant). Johnny and James had a previous band together in the 1990s known as Undertow, a pop/punk group whose biggest highlight was opening for the legendary Run DMC at a Umass-Boston arena show. In fact, all four official band members (not including Steve) have either graduated from or spent time at Umass-Boston. Colleen and James have BA’s in music and computer science, respectively. Johnny earned an MA in English Literature here, and Colin is working on his BA in English.

The title of their debut record is Easier (self-released early into this year), but getting to this point wasn’t exactly easy. It took an entire year and about 50 auditions for JTV to find the perfect vocalist when they started the band several years ago. In Colleen, a music major who came into the band after contacting O’Day (whom she already knew from school), JTV found exactly who they were looking for. After a few years of rehearsing and playing out at greater Boston area clubs and staples like Axis, Abbey Lounge, and TT the Bear’s and getting press in popular Boston freebee magazines like The Noise and Northeast Performer, JTV cut a demo, then recorded their debut album in 2005.

Right from the get-go, James the Viking’s guitar-driven pop melodies become infectious on “Don’t Fade Away,” a short and simple gem that seems to evoke the innocence of the late ’70s post-punk era-reminiscent of The Cure’s earliest material which had that pure, undistorted energy to it. Of course, Sullivan shows his punk rock impulses on the power pop number “Dream of a Different You” while Colleen shows off her high vocal range. The wah-wah pedaled rocker “Moonlicht,” a track about missed connections and broken relationships, allows her to sing to the stars as well.

Most of the 11 tracks on Easier are in the 2-3 minute range, and so JTV doesn’t waste time developing them-they just get right into it, with few exceptions. One of the latter, “Little Brewster,” exemplifies my only relatively minor concern with the CD: when Colleen sings quietly during some verses, sometimes her voice gets too quiet. Maybe she wants it that way. In any case, Colleen wails her way to a strong finish on the track, and the perfect guitar pop hooks of the ensuing album closer “Standing” strongly finishes this remarkable first effort. Here’s to hoping James the Viking’s next one is a little easier to make than the first.

Band website: jamestheviking.comMyspace.com/jamestheviking.com