The Tough & Lovely
Tues October 18
Berbati's Pan
10 SW 3rd

Why is the music of modern love generally so unromantic? All that cheating, lying, deceiving, crying—plus the long-distance shit, the dating sudden deaths, the two-timing devils. Maybe such a fantasy is just a Grease-induced hallucination, but it all used to sound so much simpler in song—the ladies of '60s girl groups like the Ronettes, the Shirelles, and the Shangri-Las sending harmonies heavenly and offering an eyelash-batting innocence with racy hints of simmering hormones.

The Tough & Lovely's songwriter/guitarist Andrew Robertson proves the romantic rocker is not simply an old apparition. The band's debut, Born of the Stars (Spoonful Records), bathes soaring female vocals in candied organ swirls and booty-shaking garage-rock rhythms. Like his idols, Robertson also gives those sentiments boosts of pop and soul—delivered through the commotion of one Lara Yazvac, a woman who could freeze wandering eyes with her ardent cries for affection.

Yazvac's dynamic presence first caught Robertson's attention at a karaoke bar, of all places. "I'd seen her around town, but [suddenly] she'd just gotten really good at singing," he explains. "She'd go up and knock people's socks off."

Their singer may have earned her chops belting out other people's material, but the Tough & Lovely pride themselves on writing originals so classic-sounding you have to double check the credits to make sure they're not covers. That special reverence comes via the band members' vinyl obsessions—Robertson is a rabid collector of old 45s.

That passion helps Robertson, Yazvac, drummer Christian Pierce, and new members Paul Gault (organ/guitar) and Matthew Million (bass) reinvent the oldest subject matter in the songbook. "It's funny, I had trouble singing love songs in my old band... for some reason it was hard to put my heart on my sleeve," admits Robertson. "With this band we've written a lot of love and breakup songs. Now I find it hard to write stuff outside of that."