Fronted by the affable, spectacled Jordan Hudkins, Rozwell Kid write massive, gritty, excitable power-punk songs; they channel Blue Album guitar grandiosity and eternally-hummable melodies conveyed in ‘ooo”s, the likes of which would make Rivers Cuomo weak in his problematic knees. But when it came to writing Rozwell Kid’s new album, Precious Art, Jordan Hudkins found himself in the strange place of wondering who and what Rozwell Kid actually was. After more than two years on the road, the band – completed by guitarist Adam Meisterhans, bassist/vocalist Devin Donnelly and drummer Sean Hallock – hadn’t quite hit a dead end, but they needed to regroup, rethink and refind their identity.
All of those questions are thankfully answered by the twelve songs that make up Precious Art. It is a quintessential Rozwell Kid album and something entirely new at the same time. It’s teeming with understated nostalgia, but doesn’t get too lost in the past. Rather, it recalibrates the past, revisiting it with the added wisdom that comes with age. It’s quirky in the way that Rozwell Kid songs have always been quirky, but more than any other record the band has made, it sees Hudkins diving deep into the heart of human existence, telling universal truths based on his own personal memories and unexamined experiences.
“Nostalgia has always been part of my inspiration for songwriting,” admits Hudkins. “I’ve always seemed to pull from childhood memories and recontextualized them, where I kind of imagine it as a big 30 year-old kid wearing OshKosh B’Gosh overalls singing about these things they experienced or thought about as a kid.”
The result is an album that expands the strain of weird whimsy that’s always run through the band’s songs, but on which it’s increasingly difficult to ignore the more serious side of things. Nothing illustrates that more than the song “Booger.” Yes, it’s an amusing tale that revolves around the green stuff that comes out of your nose being smeared across the screen of your smartphone, but it’s also so much more than that – it’s a tender, touching and even tragic ode to lost love, that is filled with an audibly sad beauty.
“We’re pretty fun guys,” he says, “and I’m a huge fan of comedy and feeling good and happiness, but at the same time, that’s not the day-to-day default emotion for, well, pretty much everyone. So I try not to take things too seriously, but I also try to keep it rooted in some sort of reality. Yeah, it’s called “Booger” and that’s the central image, but at the same time I wanted it to also play as sincere because at the end of the day, it’s a love song.” Referencing something so uninhibited isn’t meant to be interpreted as creepy or misguided, though. It’s human and natural and reflexive; we just don’t talk about it.
Elsewhere, opener “Wendy’s Trash Can” is a fuzzy, feel-good power-punk song for the summer that sounds like it could be from 1977 as much as 2017, while “UHF On DVD” is a good-humored, high energy probe into anxiety and insecurity.
On crucial late cut, “Gameball,” Hudkins is literally out in left field, playing baseball, trying to do well and meet expectations while watching others score and succeed; “I’m just being myself out here, I don’t even know where to run,” he pleads in the chorus. It’s as good an explanation of him as we could ask for. It’s on “Michael Keaton,” however, that Rozwell Kid finds a moment all its own. The near 5-minute album closer is a quirky take on hero worship that simultaneously and expertly reveals the incredible depths of the human condition. Here and all over Precious Art, Hudkins communicates in his own special language to relay the same emotions most songwriters do; excitement, disappointment, heartbreak, love, self-doubt, and more.
This album also marks a new frontier in how the four members were able to write songs; having ample time in the studio allowed the band to be more experimental, and to collaborate in an entirely new way. But it’s remarkability is as much because of Hudkins’ insane ability to balance pathos and humor to turn the slightest, most oddball detail – whether that’s picking his nose, making Batman costumes or liking hummus – into works of, well, precious art. Not, of course, that that title is entirely sincere…
“I think it’s hilarious for a rock’n’roll band to call anything they do Precious Art,” laughs Hudkins. “I think it’s really funny. But at the same time, these songs are my little babies – they’re my little precious art. That sounds so terrible! Maybe don’t put that in the bio!”