Photo Credit: Ashley Osborn
Danny Rocco – AKA Des Rocs – doesn’t want to “save rock and roll”, instead, he says, “I just want to give people the feeling I think we’re missing.” It’s a humble mission, but also one that’s earned the young star a dedicated following and even led to him opening for the Rolling Stones in 2019. Now, after a string of three EPs released between 2018 and 2020, Rocco arrives with his first full-length LP; an unapologetically retro work down to its Warhol-esque pop-art album cover. Opener “Tick” is an effective scene-setter and offers a cocky, ambitious challenge to the rest of the album; “I feel like my whole life is counting down to something,” he declares as lacerating guitar licks move the song between verses.
The album largely delivers on its promise and manages to replicate many of the joys of classic rock, even if it never scales the heights reached by the genre’s best stars. More so than on any of his previous works, here, Rocco demonstrates his impressive vocal abilities; reaching searing high notes on “Ruby with The Sharpest Lies”, while letting his voice crack in mournful moments, like on “The Devil Inside.” He has impressive vocal control and at the album’s best moments, he wields it like a weapon; a searing tool capable of conveying angst, sorrow, and unbridled rage with visceral intensity. “Why’d you leave me for dead? // Why’d you take your revenge?” he spits on “Why Why Why”, leading eventually to a bridge made up simply of repetitions of “can you feel it?”, becoming angrier with each repetition until his voice cracks under the weight of his own frustration.
In weaker moments, Rocco is less compelling in his presentation of anger; pop-punk number “Hanging By A Thread” jumps too quickly, and too predictably, to thrashing power chords (though, it does demonstrate a better understanding and appreciation of light and shade than many songs of the same genre). “MMC” (short for Mickey Mouse Club), meanwhile, crosses the line from righteous anger to bitterness (“When you c*m, I bet you fake it // Hope you choke on every word that leaves your throat”). The strongest moment on “MMC”, ultimately, is its first verse; where Rocco zooms out to offer a searing condemnation of the music industry, including one haunting line (“We know exactly what to do with a pretty face // Before it ends up on a milk jug”).
Rocco, ultimately, saves two of the best tracks for last – the penultimate “The Devil Inside” and closer “Rabbit Hole.” The latter offers refreshing sincerity and introspection (“And my only thought is you // And the things we’ll never do”), while the former moves between the subversive (“Do you need the warmth of love? // Me neither // Do you need the God above? // Me neither”) to the haunting; as his voice breaks over cries of “You’ve taken everything / And you’ve wasted all of me.” These moments prove that even if Rocco isn’t yet at the same level as the greats he looks up to, he’s an exciting new talent; one who’s capable not just of reviving a by-gone era of music, but also reviving many of the joys that came along with it.