If you were to look at the lyric sheet for ROMP’s debut record, you’d notice its designer, Madison Klarer, inserted a fair deal of ellipses. Klarer, who also doubles as the New Jersey outfit’s keyboardist and vocalist, could have inserted these pauses simply because Departure from Venus doesn’t stop quite often. From the feedback whooshes which barrel “Backfire” through a two-minute opening statement, to the stutter-stepping pop-punk of “Yapshutter,” the album’s bookends are well-portioned courses in adrenaline, accented with confessional angst. Considering ROMP’s first release was titled Sorry, Not Sorry, this nine-track answer might be outlining more of a dignified response to twenty-something trials and tribulations. But why the pauses?
On the previously-mentioned “Backfire,” Klarer sings over dueling keyboards and guitars, “we have no idea…you still make me laugh.” “Last Year,” a track boosted by a blushing power-pop hook, finds Klarer at war with the noises around her, as “Tick tock goes the sound of the clock/It might be a bomb and I…don’t know anymore.” Guitarist Lucas Dalakian matches this repetitive, measured evil with a guitar line that delivers a call-and-response melody determined to explode into an earworm. Perhaps it’s this repetition, this destructive routine, which causes our narrator to allow her lines to take a breath between phrasings. Perhaps it’s to sit at odds with the consistent power-pop which continues behind her register, which undulates from jumps to higher ground and smokier territory. Whatever the answer is, Departure from Venus is an arrival of sorts: this slab of East Coast pop music has a defined edge and isn’t afraid to use it. Welcome, ROMP. Nice maiden voyage.
That edge, ironically, comes from Klarer’s keyboards. “Get Off The Scale” doesn’t last for more than 80 seconds, but what’s delivered here is the record’s earliest burst of ingenuity. Klarer’s patching choices make a three-note melody clutter the brain like a warning siren, while filtered vocals and grainy bass masquerade punk’s most classic sheen. It’s the ending seconds which deliver a mysterious air — Klarer’s vocals mime the keyboards through a chorus of oohs and the entire scene falls apart while a spoken-word outro recounts the darkest of relationship endings: when both partners are crying together over a broken vow.
Departure from Venus pairs these bleak sketches of interpersonal trauma with a backing band’s brightest output. Klarer spends time lying on floors or driveways in “Come Undone” and “Avoiding Boys,” respectively, but the musical accompaniments to these horizontal positions shoot upward in infectiousness and pop chops. Both feature a rousing chorus which either services a plea (to “please notice me” on “Come Undone”) or packages self-assuredness (“I don’t care what you might say/This is gonna be a great fuckin’ day” on “Avoiding Boys”). An album which both pines for togetherness and finds solace in solitude may not be consistent in its thematic arcs, but it’s an excellent capsule of what it means to be young and finding your footing. ROMP just chooses to do so with brief attempts to catch their balance. The rest is just having fun stomping around.
There aren’t a lot of components to the ROMP formula, but Jesse Cannon’s production (also present on Sorry, Not Sorry) returns to create a crisp, balanced product. When it does deviate from the lifted, sunny recipe by promising more bark (“Get Off the Scale”) or purr (“Go Back to Bed”), the mastering job (also Cannon’s) reigns in so no bombastic moment overpowers the most saccharine. Surface noise opens and closes sides, but a thorough cleaning fixed most of the interruptions.
Klarer’s design — here sporting an octopus motif — is well-maintained throughout, down to the center labels and double-sided lyric sheet. Other than the consistent artwork choices, this is a pretty standard Bad Timing issue: glossy 12″ jacket, basic paper sleeve.
A digital download card is included. The LP was pressed on two variants: cloudy clear with red and purple splatter (limited to 200 copies) and cloudy clear (limited to 300 copies). A cassette configuration was issued via Funeral Sounds on rhodamine red shells.