- Don Rico, Don Rico's Next Album
Praise be to whatever deity you get down with, because there is still a college indie-rock scene! Constant change is the nature of the beast in a college town — bands appear in a bright flash before disappearing with a shrug. As such, maintaining any sort of scene continuity can be problematic. There's a lot of Alas, poor Yorick-style hand-wringing as promising acts come and go.
Fortunately, the Burlington scene seems to be in a boom period. Don Rico, along with fellow University of Vermont-spawned bands Pons and boys cruise, have injected a fresh surge of angular, irreverent indie rock into the Queen City in the last several years. It's been sorely needed.
Recorded in a dorm room, Don Rico's Next Album hits all the markers for a killer college rock record: The lo-fi approach is charming rather than detrimental, the songs are full of energy and purpose, and the lyrics are suitably sophomoric in a way that's more likely to bring a smirk than a cringe. Mostly.
"Yo I'm Clapped" is songwriter and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Jack Duda's bleary-eyed assessment of his college's virile marijuana culture, something for which UVM has always been infamous. It's hard to tell whether the song is meant as a sarcastic anthem or a true celebration of buying weed at head shops, but either works.
Part of the strange appeal of college acts is that they're typically in a state of chrysalis. Even when they're good, you know these are musicians in their early twenties and, should they stay together, will keep evolving. So, on a tune such as "Sacrifice Your Firstborn," you get driving indie rock with clever riffs and well-thought-out arrangements, full of lyrics about dollar shots and pounding beers.
Duda is a talented songwriter with an ear for catchy melodies. The rest of the band — Ben Smith and Johnny Clark on guitars, Will Coulson on bass, and Ben Glasser on the drums — have a jangly, bleached-clean garage-rock interplay reminiscent of Canadian indie-pop band Peach Pit. It's fascinating to hear them progress and, dare I say, mature ever so fucking slightly as the album moves along.
In an email to Seven Days, Duda wrote that "The Sun Has Set" was the band's first song; he and Glasser wrote it and posted it online, mostly as a joke. It definitely has that early-Ween, four-track-songs-about-poop vibe to it. "The sun has set and I just need to get my dick wet," Duda bellows, sounding like every pack of freshmen I've ever seen roaming downtown like worked-up puppies.
By the end of the album and "Crazy Alien Cat Lady," we get a driving rocker, packed with clever chord changes and soaring harmonies, and perhaps a look at what the second album might sound like.
The college rock scene in Burlington is once again thriving, but who knows for how long. Check out Don Rico's Next Album, available now on all major streaming platforms.