Here’s a clip of Josh Rouse singing a highlight track from a very good album 1972, the song in question being “Love Vibration”. The album was actually released in 2003, being named after singer-songwriter Rouse’s birth year, the year when Carole King’s Tapestry ruled the airwaves, and the last of embers of 60s idealism were still aglow. The release of this record around the time the war in Iraq began seemed like the subtlest form of protest, as an entire culture was dragged into a less-than-ideal 21st century.
The record is self-consciously retro, and this song holds to that approach, complete with a bit of jazz flute, celebratory horns, and burbling basslines. And the outlook here is rosy indeed, coming from a pure pop perspective which is a tip of the hat to AM radio hits of the time to which it harkens back. The underlying feel to this song, and the manifesto of the rest of the album is that pop records used to be about idealism and innocence. And what could embody that more than ‘spreading the love vibration’?
This is not to say that the songs are frothy to the point of being forgettable. But one of the things that makes it great is its sense of fun, with a hint or two of gray to contrast some of its sunnier skies. I think the reason it works so well is that it pits its willful optimism against the times as a means of showing us just how far into our modern, jaded outlooks we’ve slid. Maybe its simple irony being played here. But, it sounds to me that the sentiments in this tune may also remind us that being afraid of the future isn’t much of a life, as easy as it is a trap to fall into in this age of terrorism in which we live.
1972 wasn’t exactly a Garden of Eden either of course. By then, political assassinations, student protest casualties, and the continuing escalation of the Vietnam war among other social ills were harsh and unavoidable realities. But, at least they had great pop records to prove as an antidote to despair. Josh Rouse captures the spirit of this in this song, with what I perceive as the underlying hope that others will follow his example.