Review Summary: Rogue Wave learn to neither be here nor there.
Most people I spoke to had so much trouble wading through the first two tracks of Permalight
that the rest never evolved simply because it never came. A strikingly different course is taken to both tracks that the album’s entirety is almost wrapped up in front of their eyes, the only noticeable constant being Zach Schwartz’s trembling vocals shimmering over the acoustic guitar or under the programmed drums – in the split second Rogue Wave’s organics have returned to comfort us so are they gone, the band split in burying the three years they have endeavoured bravely but also exploring where their music goes from Asleep at Heaven’s Gate
And however they must feel being done with their fourth, they sound teeming with confidence. Permalight
is a textbook classic album in its variation, cohesiveness sentimentality, work ethic and all, never taking anything too deep nor keeping it too shallow. In the same way, it is neither too quick to close off the past or future – what we are left with is an album featuring tracks like (but not limited to the shape and structure of) “Sleepwalker”, at their bare bones wistful folk songs, but built up to dizzy heights Rogue Wave have never ever come as close to.
doesn’t veer to one side of the tipping point more than the other, and its seamless variation is what makes it what it is: finally, a Rogue Wave album where one of the band’s most traditional acoustic clap-jams “Solitary Gun” can have a song like “Good Morning (The Future)” as its companion, nay, it’s next of kin – this really is blood relative stuff, even when dressed up as repetitious electro-pop that dares fans to spit out “sell-out” and afterwards double-take as to what exactly from their recording history didn’t deserve to sell already. And that sell-out line cannot fly when the album is simply showcasing that the band have developed a better nose for things; the ‘variation’ of a track like “Permalight” is that Rogue Wave have learned that as songs can be pointed in one direction, so can they be in the other. Here is a track that no doubt would have been an acoustic throwaway amidst better acoustics on Descended Like Vultures
, celebrated in its musical similarities by giving it differences – specifically, a synth and keyboards galore, and shamelessly hopeless pop traditions that could never be out of place on a singles chart.
“Permalight” has Schwartz being all command and no question, believing in his imagery: with a lyric in such poise as Turn the light on tonight/Permalight, say goodnight
The song itself simply completes the positive energy that oozes from it (everybody adores chants of woo-ooh
, I assume). And here more than anywhere is the case made for the word ‘celebrated’ to say it all for Rogues Wave’s 2010. Their album shows a band embracing everything they have learned of themselves and have yet to learn and while it would be fair to say they know their lullaby heartbreak better than ever - “Fear Itself” is the album’s very own “Eyes”, potentially grandiose but never giving into eruption, in a delicious practice á la Yo La Tengo – it would be just as unfair to say they were pertaining to something they’re not with their eccentric shifts of rockin’ out on the amp and drenching songs in synth. This is a side to Rogue Wave we have barely seen scratch the surface, yes, but it’s conviction tells us all we ever wanted to know about Rogue Wave – if Permalight
has any statement to make, it is that its curators shall no longer be kings of the one dimensional, but rather heavyweights of Indie Pop. Not that you can call them heavy.