Despite having their music featured in Heroes, The O.C and Spiderman 3, Rogue Wave has never truly managed to become a household name. This isn’t through a lack of trying from frontman Zach Rogue, who has managed to switch out three bassists during the band’s eight year existence. Their latest offering on Brushfire Records offers some of their most polished and commercially accessible material to date, but never experiments to the point that you’ll want to seek them out in the future.
The Californian five set has spent the last year in Mississippi working on Permalight, their fourth studio album. None of the twelve tracks ever break new ground, but they’re produced well and offer an enjoyable, if slightly shallow experience.
Solitary Gun opens with some twisting vocals that feel like they’ve been ripped straight off the latest Kings of Leon record. Thankfully this intro is quickly replaced by a drum beat and guitar part that effectively conveys their trademark sense of pace and distance. The lyrics are deceptively optimistic, initially describing the process of moving on with ‘Go to where the people go/ we’ll dig some decent wine’. However, fans who look deeper will realise that underneath the light chord changes is a warning of escape, echoing in the chorus’ tag line ‘They’re putting clothes to flame, an imaginary sun/ a little boot heel down for a solitary gun’. It’s a rare creative moment and one which is unfortunately ruined by an oddly placed synth sequence at the end of the track.
Good Morning (The Future) jumps between traditional indie rock and the electro influence of The Postal Service, confidently replacing the bass sections with a loud, thumping digital replacement. It ticks all of the right boxes for casual listeners, but feels overly familiar for anyone who has been following the alternative rock genre over the past few years.
Rogue Wave truly make a mark when they strip away the numerous instrumental layers and allow you to appreciate just a couple of parts individually. Fear Itself stands out with its calming, pitch perfect vocals and simplistic guitar parts, sweeping delicately into the chorus with some thoughtful string sections. The crashing bass pedal of drummer Pat Spurgeon gives an excellent contrast to the tranquil harmony of Zach Rogue, elevating the scale of the song far beyond their more acoustic rivals.
Each track on Permalight commendably tries a new approach to presenting Rogue Wave’s musical style, but only ever manages to mimic the success of other bands. It feels like the group is always timidly testing the water, hoping to please absolutely everybody by offering a track that they’ve already heard elsewhere. Until they take the artistic leap of sticking to one, unique musical style they will always be seen as second place to the artists that they’re emulating. It’s frustrating to see Rogue Wave fail to meet the potential that their label and fans can clearly see, especially when there are a few peppered moments of brilliance on each of their records.
Zack Rogue torments the listener by presenting his band’s pinnacle track at the very end. Concluding Permalight with just over sixty seconds of fantastically minimalist instrumentals, it echoes everything that Rogue Wave could, and should become. Commercial radio stations will lap this record up because of its uplifting vibe and accessible lyrics, but those looking for a full set of creative songs will need to wait for the inevitable next installment.