ROGUE WAVE: Coming out of the shadows
I don't know what it was about ROGUE WAVE's debut album "OUT OF THE SHADOW" that made me such a pushover and an easy lay. It was like that record was genetically engineered to seep right into my skin. I'm not saying it's a masterpiece or a slice of genius (I don't throw that word around like a lot of music fans seem to do), but for some reason, it was right up my alley. I heard in those little fragments of pop bliss elements of Elliott Smith, The Beatles, The Kinks, and all kinds of other hints of my favorite artists.
October will see the release of Rogue Wave's first proper album. That debut was merely a set of demos, a home recording made by Zach Rogue as a sort of Help Wanted poster in his quest to assemble a band of like-minded musicians. He just happened to be lucky enough to have the sort of connections that could get that tape into the hands of folks at Sub Pop records, who re-released it with very little tinkering.
I've heard the new record, "DESCENDED LIKE VULTURES," and it's a stunning little follow-up that basically elaborates on all of the elements that made the first record so likeable. In a way, it's kind of like how the films "BOTTLE ROCKET" or "SLING BLADE" were based on previously made, shorter films. While there's probably a lot to love in those first drafts, the quality of the finished product is undeniable. I got to meet Zach Rogue after one of the band's shows as openers for A.C. NEWMAN, and I said only one thing to him - and to all the kids perusing the merch table - as I pointed to a vinyl copy of his debut: "That record is fucking GREAT. Thank you." His eyes got wide and he gave me as earnest a "Thank you" as I've ever received. If I get the chance to meet him again, I'll probably bury him under a fresh pile of profanity-laced accolades for the new album.
While you'll have to wait until 10/24 to hear the whole record, the band just released an EP for the first single, "10:1," this week. It features 3 tracks that didn't make it to the record, and is a bargain at around $4 or $5 (if you see it for more, you're probably getting ripped off).
"10:1" from DESCENDED LIKE VULTURES: (This track is hosted at the Sub Pop site.) This barnstormer may not have been my choice for the first single (I would have gone with the album opener, "Bird On a Wire"), but it's still one of the hottest songs on the record. Every instrument, including the drums and vocals, sounds explosive and fuzzy like they're running in the red. The opening couplet - if I understand the words correctly - puts a smile on my face: "Curious thoughts at the fotomat / Do you really think you're all that?"
"Love's Lost Guarantee" from DESCENDED LIKE VULTURES: Deciding which song to host from this record was a bitch. There was the aforementioned album opener. There's the gorgeous sadness of "California." There's the radio-ready anthem of "Publish My Love." But I had to go with the track that I thought had the coolest production. There are at least 4 guitars and three vocals before the drums come in, and I'm always a sucker for songs that make subtle variations on that whole quiet-to-loud verse/chorus aesthetic. I love how the song sounds like it's going to end at 3:36, and then it blasts back in with the euphoric "La-da-da-da-da" coda.
"Be Kind & Remind" from OUT OF THE SHADOW: When I referenced that whole Beatles influence earlier, it was this song that I really had in mind. After you listen to this, check out the Paul McCartney-penned "Black Bird". I love how Zach Rogue uses those electronic squiggles to recreate the sounds of the bird on this song. Cue these songs up in your player and have them play back-to-back. It's undeniable.
"Endless Shovel" from EXHUMED & REGROOMED: "E&R" was an iTunes EP (anyone know if it ever popped up in any other format?) that included the band's cover of U2's "Seconds," along with 5 songs from "OUT OF THE SHADOW" reworked and played live in the studio. "Endless Shovel" is one of the most drastically changed songs, its tempo slowed down to half speed and its pounding electric guitars swapped out for delicately picked acoustics. You can also get an MP3 of this over at Sup Pop (click link for song).
"Crush the Camera" from the 10:1 EP: My favorite b-side on the EP, "Crush the Camera" has such a strange beat that it sounds like the drummer is somehow playing backwards. That bassline is pretty crazy, too. Great lyric: "Hiding with the midnight mice / licking up the moonlight vice."
For more on ROGUE WAVE:
- Check 'em out at Sub Pop, one of the finest gat-damn indie labels on Earth.
- The band has a pretty kickass web site where 4 songs from their debut, along with a droning instrumental, are streaming.
- They have an upcoming tour with the FRUIT BATS, another Sub Pop band who kick ass in an indie-wimp-rock kind of way. Band page has MP3s.
- A rogue - or freak - wave is a spontaneous ocean surface wave that can sink even medium-large ships. They weren't proven to exist until 1995, when scientists started to discover that the oceans of the world can create 100 foot waves in the middle of the sea - sometimes not even in a storm - with some regularity. Nutty.