Rome, a long-gestating collaboration between producer Brian Joseph Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and Italian composer Daniele Luppi, pays tribute to Italian cinema’s spaghetti Western era with the subtlety of a revolver to the forehead. Lovingly detailed, atmospheric, and oozing the Technicolor glow of a smoke-stained '70s movie screen, Rome is awfully hard not to cheer for, even when it’s stuck on autopilot, as rarely do pet projects feel this alive and sumptuous. Burton and Luppi were wise to bring on Jack White and Norah Jones to flesh things out, as their vocal contributions provide a much-needed break from the immaculate yet familiar melodies. Jones, with her smoky timbre and laid-back delivery, brings a cool confidence to standout cuts like “Season’s Trees” and “Black," while White, who spent countless hours driving around and listening to the instrumental mixes while bouncing ideas into a hand-held tape recorder, manages to make songs like “Two Against One” and “The World,” the latter of which features a knockout octave vocal, feel as sinister as their intentions. Rome’s instrumental bits feel nearly interchangeable with their Morricone/Tarantino counterparts, but there’s a joyful lawlessness to the whole affair that makes it feel less like a lark and more like a fever dream come to unlikely fruition.
James Christopher Monger