It seems like forever since anyone heard the name Rooney (outside of the crotchety “60 Minutes” nightcap who complains about pennies and junk mail), but it’s been only three years since the sunny pop-rock outfit released their self-titled debut album.
Pucker Up, Buttercup: Los Angeles’ Rooney will perform its sun-soaked pop at Rock ’n Roosevelt along with the Moving Units.
The Los Angelinos harmonized their way onto the airwaves in May 2003, sporting shaggy Byrd haircuts and subtle-as-a-sledgehammer California imagery — note the state-flag “bear and a star” cover to their album and the video for “Blueside,” where the group plays with their backs to the Pacific as the sun sets behind them. Perfect then, for the youthful band to play at sunny UCSD, as the headlining act of the Rock ’n’ Roosevelt festival. Despite their OC-wannabe appearance, Rooney effortlessly locked down the A.M.-radio pop formula on their debut, sounding like the kid brother to other Beach Boys-meet-power-chord acts like Phantom Planet and Weezer.
Rooney is more than a brother in spirit to Phantom Planet. Robert Carmine, Rooney’s singer/guitarist, is the younger brother of Jason Schwartzmann (the actor/ex-drummer for Phantom Planet), who hooked up Rooney’s first shows — as his band’s opening act. But such rock ’n’ roll nepotism is meaningless, since Rooney serves up California sunshine with as much of a smile as Carmine’s older brother’s newly iconic band.
Recently awoken, Rooney plans a return sometime in spring, having recorded an album’s worth of material with producer Howard Benson (behind such embarrassments as Crazy Town, Adema, P.O.D. and My Chemical Romance). We can only wait to see if Rooney will win a new spot in the rotation for those who name sunny pop a guilty (or not so guilty) pleasure. At the very least, they’ve got pop hooks, mop-tops and baby faces enough to pull it off.
Opening for Rooney is another L.A.-based outfit, but these guys are more gritty, New York-club than Highway 1. Few saw the Moving Units on a little side stage during 2004’s Sun God, somewhere between a Twinkie-defiling Goldfinger and fuming Busta Rhymes, but those who did know the dance-punk revivalist trio to be an irresistibly bass-driven, hip-shaking act. Good thing too, because their 2004 debut of Dangerous Dreams didn’t capture half of their live energy. While the dance-punk wave has all but receded, the Moving Units, who were one of the first way back in 2001, get extra credit for honesty. Their self-titled EP showcasing the ridiculously catchy bassline of “Between Us and Them” got them plenty of hype, but by the time their full-length came out in 2004, the overload of Hot Hot Heat and their cohorts depreciated the effort.
Rooney and the Moving Units will perform at Rock ’n’ Roosevelt at 6:30 p.m. on March 10. The show is free for UCSD students.