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Up to Muster: The Recruits turn out smart, finely crafted tunes.

Top Recruits

With 'Just Pick It," the Recruits prove ripe for a major-label harvest

By Nicky Baxter

IT'S TOUGH WHEN YOU CAN'T MAKE IT in your hometown. Just ask the Recruits, one of San Jose's best-kept secrets. For nearly a decade, the band has been struggling to make a name for itself on its home turf. Inexplicably, their brand of melodic power pop hasn't made much of a dent on the San Jose music scene, where the predilection tilts toward the metal/punk/ska axis. Too bad, because the Recruits are headed for the big leagues with or without hometown support.

Vocalist/guitarist Eric Campbell and his songwriting buddy, lead guitarist Jim Dequine, and drummer Rick Swanson are intent on making waves plying hook-laden rock, not an easy task. For one thing, the Recruits have had difficulties finding a bass player sympathetic to their sound. Nor has it been easy securing local gigs. Now, with bassist James Rodda (a former roadie) on board, and a handful of high-profile dates behind them, the Recruits have been able to focus on making commercially appealing pop.

The group formed, Swanson says, about nine years ago. "Like a lot of other bands, the group started out in a garage. I joined a year after, by answering an ad. We've been plugging away ever since." The original threesome was weaned on late-'70s, early-'80s guitar-pop, unlike many of their metal- and punk-bred peers. "We really got off on groups like the Alarm and the Cure. I mean, we listened to other stuff, but those bands were our favorites."

Last year's Just Pick It, a self-released disc, was recorded in San Jose in a studio the group assembled for that purpose. The album has pricked up ears wherever it's been played. Brimming with smart, finely crafted tunes and bracing melodies, the album is unabashedly radio-friendly. From the kick-off track, "Viva la Fruit," to the set-concluding "Chance" the Recruits' subtly arresting music possesses the kind of crackle and snap infrequently encountered on radio these days. "Viva la Fruit" is a lovably loopy number with giddy guitars, a rough-and-tumble pulse and off-the-wall lyrics. That track, Swanson says, eventually snuck into rotation at Mix 106.5FM. "We're pretty proud of that," Swanson asserts. "It's not easy for an unsigned band to get play on that station."

The album boasts plenty of other potential buzz bin ditties. "Swimmin,' " for instance, is an introspective midtempo number with a heroically ringing chorus. "Mr. Moon" is an acoustically bent song infused with a gentle melancholia. "Turn It On" flaunts a deliciously insinuating melody. Performed live, these songs assume a tougher edge.

It's just a matter of time before the Recruits break out as a group with a fresh approach to making music. Swanson is optimistic: A crowd of 7,000 showed up to hear the group at Music in the Park last month, a sure sign that local interest in the group is on the upswing. Next month the group heads into the studio with Mike Sak, the Goo Goo Dolls' original producer, to cut another disc. "The whole point is to get a major label's attention," he says. "Hopefully, the project will take us to the next level." The band's surehanded handle on pop-craft as heard on Just Pick It is proof that the Recruits have already arrived.

The Recruits open for Mr. Big on Aug. 26 at the Edge, 260 California Ave, Palo Alto; doors at 7pm; $10; 650.324.EDGE. For more information on the band, check out their website at www.recruits.com.

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From the August 26-September 1, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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