July 18, 2021

Italian Alternative Rock band SMOKING ROGERS hail from Rome, and have been banging out their very own style of grunge since about 2012. So they’re not exactly swamping the world with recorded material, Comfort Zone being their debut album! But what they lack in history, they make up with esprit-de-corps, this is simply a really fun album! Lots of jangly intros, lots of powerhouse chords, a very meaty rhythm section, a very distinctive female lead singer who might not be to everyone’s taste but who’s nasal vocal style strongly reminds me of Brian Molko from Placebo, with hints of ‘Dutch rock’ in a Golden Earring way! The key thing is that although they’re mostly grunge-inspired, there’s lots of variety here, and there’s no such thing as a weak track.

If they had been in the United States thirty years ago Smoking Rogers would probably have spontaneously been part of the Seattle grunge scene, but although this seminal influence is clear, the chemistry of this band also includes a powerful hard rock streak harking back to 80’s Los Angeles and 70’s Europe – and with guitars strongly linked to punk culture and a natural tendency to acoustic songwriting! Having said that, the band’s propensity for dissonances and sharp riffs does not prevent them from exploring different sounds and genres, always letting themselves be guided by their own instincts.

Valeria Di Maggio: Voice, Acoustic Guitar.
Lorenzo Cicerchia: Voice, Electric Guitar.
Maurizio Lollobrigida: Electric guitar.
Alessandro Scerpa: Bass, Choirs.
Teo Lisac: Drums.
photo by Flavia Bombardieri

The album opens with the rumbunctious Thovez House, a real powerhouse rumble of a track that quickly grabs your attention, full of the joys of playing loud, with quirkily intimate lyrics when you pick them out from the mayhem! Pimple is then an out-and-out slab of grunge. One Division Left creeps in with an insinuating bassline, added to with a nicely electro-acoustic guitar lick before a whopper of a riff kicks in. Valeria’s Placebo-style vocals work so well on this!

Followed by the current single, Spiritual Song, a heavily influenced 90’s number, very much out of Nirvana’s catalogue. The band admits as much: “ This song is about pathological narcissism, inability to love and rejection. Blend of clear sounds from the seventies and nineties. As we always say, if we had been born forty years earlier, perhaps we would not have been inspired by anyone.” But they have their own engagingly catchy edge, I was hooked!

I Want You To Know is next, Lorenzo leading on vocals, a sort of love song, with a jingle-jangle guitar line and backed up with hypnotically building tribal-sounding drums. This is quality psych-rock, I was told to expect variety, and I’m not disappointed, I love this one, and would love to see it live!

Pascal On Stage brings Valeria back to centre stage, an almost gentle ballad, a long track by their standards weighing in at six and a half minutes. Both guitars again to the fore, building nicely above the strummed heart of the song. Again, its not just grunge, the licks are much more 70’s / 80’s retro than you might think. Another really strong track, not sure who Pascal is though! And very aptly, the next number is simply called 70’s. A light, catchy number, shades of Golden Earring, Allman Brothers, A Band Called O, Traffic even, it does indeed reek of that great decade despite the more contemporary vocals.

The Butterflies is a short, sweet, light-hearted ballad-with-balls, a lovely little melange of styles that’s just timeless, irresistably get-up-and-dancable! Daybreak brings us back to the land of Grunge, a good old melodic thrash, I challenge folk to keep their toes still when listening.

I’ve Got Your Eyes brings the set to an end, another quite lengthy number, very different, this could be Jefferson Airplane at times! Loosely looping around a slow bass line before diving in and out of some pacey chord-work in the chorus. Definitely more than a hint of retro, anyone who picked up on the reviews for bands like Witchwood would do well to give this a whirl as well, I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed! The track winds up to a big ending, which has a dark twist at the end but nonetheless left me feeling very happy!

” Comfort Zone ” was produced and recorded by Maurizio Lollobrigida and mixed and mastered by Maurizio Lollobrigida and Alessandro Scerpa at the Officine Zero / Il Merlo Studio in Rome.