The Rubinoos had a fifteen year career from 1970-1985, during which they released several well crafted power pop albums and managed to place a few songs on Billboard Magazine’s singles chart. Songs such as “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” were catchy radio fare that provided an enjoyable listen. The group’s success gradually declined, however, and the Rubinoos disbanded in 1985.
Fourteen years passed until original members Al Chan, Tommy Dunbar and Jon Rubin decided to reform the group. Twist Pop Sin is their first album of new original material issued in this millennium following 2003’s Crimes Against Music which was a cover project and Live In Japan issued in 2004.
The Rubinoos have picked up where they left off and have produced an enjoyable album of smooth and pleasurable pop. The harmonies remain intact and Tommy Dunbar’s guitar playing is creative and strong. The writing shows a new maturity as to how the songs are structured.
The album starts out with one of the most creative tracks that they have ever produced. “Altamont” is a (hopefully) tongue in cheek song about the famous Rolling Stones concert. While the lyrics leave a little to be desired, the song is presented a cappella. They quickly establish the fact that their vocals are in fine form. It is a surprising track and a wonderful lead song for what is to follow.
The Rubinoos hit their stride with such songs as “You Started It,” “Gone Today,” and “She Won’t Let Me.” The jangling guitars and harmonies are a modernization of their classic seventies sound. “She Won’t Let Me” and especially the frenetic Ramones type track, “Go Go Go Tokyo” show off Tommy Dunbar’s guitar virtuosity in short but brilliant bursts.
“Pain Killer” is a nice track that runs counterpoint to their usual up-tempo type songs. While the focus is on the harmonies, the background is close to acoustic and the track has a relaxed feel which allows the listener to catch his or her breath.
The Rubinoos are who they are and that is fine. They are excellent practitioners of an American pop sound. Twist Pop Sin may not be essential listening, but is fun and at times that is more than enough.