Local Cassette Review: 'Last Exit in Berkeley' by Roman Candles

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Roman Candles
Last Exit in Berkeley
Aztec Records

Yorba Linda's Roman Candles continues its steady campaign at low-key releases with a new tape for 2011--but in a change, it's actually a solo acoustic collection by bandleader Christopher Gordon, recorded for the most part in, indeed, Berkeley. Given the band's past releases have often been about changed ideals, memories and compromises moving from teenage life into adulthood, it's no surprise to see the theme continue here as well on songs like "Mixtape." This time, though, as the liner notes and tape title indicate, it's about "graduating from college and not really wanting to."

The sense of hesitancy and looking back doesn't dedicate itself to four years of partying, though. A song like "666" looks back at birth and upbringing in Tustin and Orange, although the narrator, in this case, is the devil. (Seems appropriate, really.) There's plenty more wry humor throughout, despite a blunt song title like "Molestation Is Not a Joke." Who could blame him when he notes that he wishes the rent was free?

Hearing Gordon on his own after all the collective band work conveys a sense of isolation caught somewhere between comfort and constriction--something a song like "Rockstar" also lives up to in its lyrics. In itself, Gordon's not-a-boy/not-a-man questioning is not new lyrical ground per se (just ask Pete Townshend, Paul Weller and many more). After so many figures like John Darnielle and followers like Conor Oberst have made the guy/guitar/home tape-recording combination its own aesthetic, Last Exit to Berkeley doesn't reinvent any wheels.

However, as much as the rest of his work, Gordon is about documenting the impressions of his life as they happen with jokes--however gawkily or nakedly expressed--leavening the impact but not necessarily providing any kind of final resolution. As the final song notes, "Goodbye for Now," but there will doubtless be something new soon.

The band can be reached via romancandlesmusic@gmail.com.


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