Wave B-b-b-bye to the Magic Bus
Rogue Wave sparkles the hell outta some sweet, Sixties-ish pop.
Likening them to “a few simple fresh ingredients mixed together tastefully, like good Italian food”, Carl Newman finds Rogue Wave good, but beyond description—in the same way the Pixies were. Like the lead New Pornographer, Destroyer as well as fellow indyhotties Spoon, Super Furry Animals, The Clientele, Mates of State, and (RIYL) The Shins--folks who know a thing or three about pop music--have all similarly been enamored enough to have showered praise and opening spots at their gigs upon this little band.
Allow me, now, to present another infectious pop disc, vocally similar to the confectious AC Newman’s Slow Wonder, but trading that bittersweet wisdom for an innocent, seductive sweetness more akin to labelmate James Mercer’s. Zach Rogue’s intensely personal debut with Rogue Wave takes the listener on the road with nothing but an afghan, suitcase turntable, acoustic guitar, and a generous stack of the great folk rock records of the era the genre emerged.
All right, the Byrds made Dylan’s bets tunes into crystalline, multi-textured art. Imagine The Byrds except as covered by Bob Dylan, trading in a world-weary snarl for an innocence coupled with an aggressive curiosity. More succinctly, Zach Rogue walks like Bo Diddley, but certainly doesn’t need any damned crutch.
Reflecting darkness while creating giddy, beautiful pop, Out of the Shadows includes some of the most well-fashioned strummers this side of Younger than Yesterday, all employed for a single noble purpose: to convey its messages of hope, innocence, and loss. Indeed, innocence traded for sorrow hasn’t been dealt this alluringly since the Seventies. Something of a Something/Anything? for the college radio set? It’s too early to tell. But Zach Rogue makes it awful interesting to try and figure out.
Deep acoustic grooves reminiscent of Bo Diddley create bedrock for opener, “Every Moment”. Rhythmic shifts, a dramatic ebb and flow perfectly match hyper-genuine lyrics like “I used to think about you and me forever”. “Endless Shovel” offers jazzy interplay between Nathan Petty’s skinswork and Rogue’s guitar leading to something of a semi-acoustic rave-up ala the Yardbirds, but with the volume way lower than that classic 11. Subtle, organic keys drag “Nourishment Nation” around the block a couple-three times. Birds chime congruously into Rogue’s seductively sweet tone in “Be Kind – Remind” and his vox wonderfully double-track throughout Out of the Shadow, suggesting harmonic unity, thematic emphasis--but a bit askew...like Garfunkle, but a cool, savvy, and easy-to-take version of the cartoon moose troubadour.
But don’t expect something simple just because it is gentle. Rogue wields a mighty pop hammer, and, true, it is a soft one—but its comforting cush is stacked with more accoutrement, more pop spice than a chili cook-off winner. Moog, Wurlitzer effects, and even handclaps surround “Kicking the Heart Out”. But these are not lyrics-obscuring tricks. Rogue certainly need not be ashamed of: “If music is my lover/Then you are just a tease/You make love to a shadow/Whose face is hollow money.” Oy freaking vey! Did he have to allude to the early Beatles’ best tune (and perhaps beat’s best instrumental) in the process? Too clever by half!
Out of the Shadows ends with the grace and beauty of “Perfect”. En route reminiscent of Westerberg’s “Skyway”, contrapuntally high-pitched backing shovels heavy meaning upon this lament to lost innocence: “Everything was perfect until you came along.” Childish innocence practically bleeds off the end of each of Rogue’s lines closing, well, perfectly with these two simple words: “oh no.”
Careful with this one, for you may just find yourself as I did one recent afternoon, wandering down the street, spontaneously chirping a line from “Postage Stamp World.” “You can all get in line/Lick my behind.” Because this music, even with a line like that, which truthfully has no right to be any good......oh, but if it had been in the hands of anyone but a person like Zach Rogue, in other words handled anything short of beautifully, it surely would not have. Out of the Shadows is simply that fine and that seductive.
Newman casually referring to Rogue Wave’s uniqueness in pop mastery, my involuntary gushing—these are things organically derived music inspires. And the band grew naturally. Zach Rogue took a leave from his band, Desoto Reds, and bought a one-way ticket to New York, having decided in classic songwriter style (Skip Spence, Chris Bell, etc.) to record the songs he needed with the people he needed in the place he needed and at the moment he had to do it. Zach returned to Frisco, dropped out of his bands and before he could spit, Pat Spurgeon (drums/keys/samples/vocals), Sonya Wescott (bass/vocals), and Gram LeBron (guitar/keys/vocals) had gathered around him--resulting in a group that light “up like fireworks” and like “hugging each other”...all that raw emotion and a band whose tightness derives from love. Unbelievable.
Out of the Shadows: 9.2/10. Rogue Wave Plays Schubas on Sunday, January 30th and they are simply PHENOMINAL live.
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