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Review: The MumbleOdd
By Craig Griffith
PitchForkMedia, 10/15/00
Tony Romanello
The MumbleOdd
[Engine Shed]
Rating: 7.0
Traveling through rural Oklahoma with sleep in my eyes, hunger in my gut, and nothing in my mind's ear but the itinerant whiz of passing cars and "The Song That Never Ends," I decided to pull in to the oasis of Tulsa for a good night's sleep, a square meal, and some musical entertainment. Anything to keep Sherri Lewis out of my head.

Nourishment was found at a roadside diner outside city limits. No sense in paying too much for something I'd eat too quickly to taste. Driving into town, I chose the first club I saw, a charming hole-in-the-wall called Grandma's Recipe Seedy Dive. A handstamp later, I was looking at the schedule of events, seated on a barstool. October 12th, Tony Romanello. Worth a shot.

Seeing all the young local females accompanied by young local males in the diner, I strike up a conversation with the normal-looking guy on the stool next to me. After a lengthy discussion of the merits of Transformers versus Go-Bots, he gets up to leave. "I've got a set in ten minutes; we'll settle this later. Optimus Prime can still suck it, though."

The band takes the stage, tearing through their opening number with as much aplomb as any top 40 listener could ask for. To quote Dr. Dre, Tony Romanello "keeps they heads ringing with hooks bigger than all outdoors." Obvious followers of the Romanello saga sing along, and even the lip-chewing lovers in the back bob their heads in time. It seems to be all in a day's work for Tony, and indeed it is; this isn't a revolution in modern rock, merely a reflection of the past five or so years of its history, in a carefully crafted package. Tube-distorted guitars buzz octave riffs and open strings drone in appreciation of latter- day Sunny Day Real Estate while bass and drums stay out the way of the apparent melodic attraction with just enough rhythmic intricacy to be picked up by the musicians in the audience. Every couple of numbers, a man backstage sits down and plinks away chords on a fake- sounding digital piano, only to leave again at the drop of a fuzzed-out rocker. Bending the ear of the not-unattractive girl in front of me, I ask what else this guy's done locally-- he's obviously got experience on his side. She senses a sounding board for her fascination with Tony Romanello, and spouts off a list of bands, but I only catch "Jify Trip" and "Murmur" before I'm distracted by the sudden reprise of the chorus of the previous song, which ended a few seconds ago. It dies out again and gives way to the first track in Romanello's "Genesoma" suite, titled "Singing Sirens."

Suddenly, a light bulb goes on over my head. He's attempting to bring the epic structures of classic prog-rock to the unsuspecting pop listener. Thinking back on the set so far, Romanello's general grandiosity bears the mark of Yes and Gabriel-era Genesis on the face of otherwise enjoyable, but ordinary modern pop-rock. Without this addition, Romanello might have evaded the musical radar completely. But with it, well... at least I can see the oi-sayers leaving before the closing of their favorite bar.

The pop blend brews itself into a watery slurry as the suitably clichéd "Lo-Fi Dreams in Stereo" continues in the set pattern of verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, pause, reprise and leaves me wanting for nothing more than the sweet release of sleep. I decide not to wait around for Tony. The Go-Bots win tonight, as far as I'm concerned. I pick up a copy of a local music rag and hit the road in search of Tulsa's finest cheap motel. Plopping myself down on the bed after a decision between one with free movies or a skanky outdoor swimming pool (the pool won), I start reading the record reviews. Tony Romanello is the feature, with a left-handed rave about The MumbleOdd being "the best modern rock solo debut from Tulsa, ever." Another lightbulb crackles on. For these people, Tony is the "local boy done good." There's one in any decent-sized town. One who can write songs that stick in your head and play a mean guitar, but has trouble finding the larger audience they deserve.

I'd rather have this stuff on the radio than Three Doors Down any day of the week, but there's hardly anything here that warrants recommendation over Romanello's peers. Concluding my day, I turn on the air conditioner. At least it's not "The Song That Never Ends." -Craig Griffith

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Spotnik 2000 Artist Nominee Profile for Rising Star and Local Album of the Year
By Lucas Oswalt
The Spot, The Tulsa World, 9/15/00

Tony Romanello Drawing comparisons to early Sunny Day Real Estate as well as emotional prog rock, Tony Romanello's "The MumbleOdd" may be one of the most confident, elegant and flat-out perfect modern rock records to surface in the local scene. Hushed vocals, tidal waves of guitar and carefully balanced production (courtesy of Chainsaw Kitten Trent Bell) collapse in exuberant fields of sonic splendor. If the former Murmur frontman has an Achilles heel, it could only be that he's set his sights incredibly high straight out of the starting gate -- but don't bet on it. This rocket hasn't even come close to terminal velocity.

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Reviews of stellar new CDs from Tulsa's Tony Romanello and Admiral Twin
By Thomas Conner
The Spot, The Tulsa World, 6/30/00
Photo Credit: Kelly Kerr/Tulsa World

The last time Tony Romanello and I talked at length about his musical pursuits -- on his own and in leading the short-lived band Murmur -- he said this: "I like to really get into the songwriting process. That's what you should do as a songwriter -- create a song as a whole and connect with people. Bubblegum hits with a catchy line or guitar hook will come and go, but something you can put your stamp on is what I've been trying to do the past year."

That was, in fact, exactly one year ago, and the results of that year of song-stamping have just been foisted upon the local market. "The MumbleOdd" is Romanello's solo debut, and it's the best modern rock debut I've yet heard from a Tulsa musician. Period.

Romanello once played with Jify Trip. It was just a few gigs and hardly worth mentioning, though the reasons he fit into that now-dead Tulsa band help explain where he's coming from. Like Jify Trip's much-missed Justin Monroe, Romanello radiates contradictory signals of populist intent and isolated, academic methodology. "The MumbleOdd" unfolds like human understanding, as if Romanello were a skilled teacher leading us to enlightenment by balancing the daunting bits of progressive rock with the more catchy and fulfilling ingredients of modern rock. These dozen tracks are each cinematic, emotionally draining anthems redolent of Queensryche or early Sunny Day Real Estate -- a band whose development was arrested at a critical point when, like Jify Trip, its singer found God and the remaining members scrambled into projects with more crackle but less artistic bite.

Romanello, though, is a singular talent -- the Chris Cornell of Tulsa. "The MumbleOdd" sounds completely realized. It bristles with guitar electricity while making sure never to forget the organic elements that fulfill the vision -- consistent parlor piano underneath most of the tracks (paging Mitch Easter), occasional cello and, on "Atman," a pleasant flute chorale preceding the song's triumphant blast of maximum guitar distortion. Quite often, Romanello's complex compositions are positively prog; the "Genesoma" suite moves through sounds ranging from Pearl Jam to Queensryche to Stephen Stills. On the other hand, "Lo-Fi Dreams in Stereo" closes the album with the pretty, posthumous message Brian Wilson's spirit will someday beam back from the far reaches of space. When his complex and approachable sides come together, though, magic is made. Case in point: "Everything" is a ringing romantic declaration made utterly transcendent by clever guitar constructs ("Grace"-ful, a la Jeff Buckley) and sound levels that crescendo and fade on purpose, underscoring the song's tug-of-war between panic and bliss. (The album was produced by Chainsaw Kitten guitarist Trent Bell, who reaches his own pinnacle here.) From start to finish, "The MumbleOdd" is astonishing, thrilling and vital.

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CD Review - Lo-Fi Dreams in Stereo
By Sean Pruitt
Pulse, OKClive.com, 7/12/00

A mostly acoustic disc, "Lo-fi" is an emotional 14-track journey through Romanello's dreams and personal experiences. While a few tracks are available on either "Bootlegs and B-Sides for Hire" - an EP released by Romanello's old band Murmur - or "The MumbleOdd", the majority of the cuts are true gems from the Romanello archives. As the title suggests, the album is somewhat lo-fi (being mostly, if not all self-produced 8-track recordings). Regardless, the absence of a polished studio job does nothing to detract from the attractiveness of this album.
Some shining examples? Try out our featured track "Dances". A raw, rhythmic, punctuated performance with just a tiny bit of technology to fill out the sound. Furthermore, Romanello makes a beautiful addition (or three) to the under-appreciated genre of the instrumental with "Faith", "Hope" and "Love".
"Lo-fi Dreams in Stereo" is available exclusively through MP3.com, while "The MumbleOdd" can be purchased through either tonyromanello.com, or the Engine Records web site (www.enginerecords.com).
- Sean Pruitt, PULSE

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In The Works...
By Thomas Conner
The Spot, The Tulsa World, 4/21/00

In the Works....... He was guitarist in Jify Trip for about an hour, it seemed, and head of Norman's Murmur, but Tulsa-native Tony Romanello's solo dreams never waned. Next month he's due to release a full-length solo CD, "MumbleOdd." A four-track demo surfaced recently, offering a glimpse of what's to come: lots of muted vocals and big guitars, weaving out pretty, dense songs reminiscent of the Small Faces, Bernard Butler, even a little Jeremy Enigk. Chainsaw Kitten Trent Bell is producing, and all the musicians are Tulsans. For information, tune into www.tonyromanello.com or www.enginerecords.com .

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