In the first ten seconds of singer/songwriter Kurt Baker’s new album, “Rockin’ for a Living,” the deep strumming of a guitar slowly builds up and intensifies as we lean forward in our seats hoping we’ve stumbled upon revived rock ‘n’ roll.
Twelve seconds in, all hope is lost. Baker’s voice comes in goofy and gung-ho, perfect for the theme song of a ‘90s sitcom, but more so the type of music played at a middle school dance than a head-banging concert. The music’s fun, but power chords get repetitive and one-syllable words don’t always have to be sung with five.
Heavily influenced by the 1960s and ‘70s and comparable to a whinier Elvis Costello, Baker truly is retro, managing to steal sounds from the past without being hipster. It’s admirable that he does what he loves, but his songs lack originality; instead of taking old music and putting a fresh spin on it, he sounds like he’s the son of one of The Beach Boys, trying to recreate music that’s already had its era.
Songs like “Can’t Have Her Back” and “The Problem” incorporate organ solos, making them seem as though they were written at church camp in the awkward years of rejection. The real “problem” is that these songs get stuck in your head like advertising jingles you’re embarrassed you know by heart.
The album has only six tracks, but by track four, “Kiss Me,” the cliches and cheeky lyrics begin to feel unbearable. “Girl I’d rather die than live without you/No matter what your parents say,” he trills.
Whether Baker’s songs will put a smile on your face or make you cringe all depends on how well you tolerate power pop. But it’s likely that listening to all of these songs at once might result in an irrepressible urge to catch a cab to the nearest karaoke bar in search of better music.