ATTENTION READERS: You are about to read a review about a pop-punk band that knows how to play their instruments! If this statement scares/confuses you, you may want to press the back button on your computer and find a review more suitable to your expectations. I promise I won’t be offended. If I was in your shoes, I would be afraid to read any further as well. For my chancier readers, prepare your brain for what it’s about to see and read on…
Now that I have you all befuddled and possibly intrigued, let me go ahead and list off a few of the common pop-punk bands that I know of: Green Day, All-American Rejects, Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, Good Charlotte. Now, out of those bands listed, how many of them can really play their instruments? I’ll give Tre Cool and Travis Barker their props for being above average drummers, but can anyone honestly say that the rest of them are more than technically sound? I can’t. That’s why it surprised me to find out that there was a pop-punk band that could sustain an entire album by using more than just a three-chord progression. I had no idea such a band existed until I heard Comfort of Home by the California-based quartet Rufio.
Blending rip-your-face-off riffs with the energy you would expect from a lighting storm on cocaine, Rufio has managed to change this man’s conceptions of what pop-punk can sound like. Nothing against the bands I mentioned earlier, I like them all fine and well (except for Good Charlotte…I hate them with a passion not even Mel Gibson could contemplate), but sometimes my ears need to feast on some guitar melting riffage. The kind that makes your brain cells want to start moshing. I usually turn to heavy metal for that fix, but there’s only so much growling and grunting you can take from James Hetfield before you feel like you’re trapped in a grizzly porno with an excellent soundtrack. Therefore, I am thankful to Rufio for providing that same fix, without the burden of the extra nightmares.
No doubt about it, your brain cells will be “Out of Control" after the opening track runs its course. Frenetic is the one word that I would use to describe it…if I could only use one word to describe it. However, since I have the ability to use as many as I want, I will throw a few more your way: intense, overwhelming, frantic, and immediately satisfying. And that’s only talking about the guitar. Scott Sellers’ voice emerges from the cracks between the insane guitar licks with a gruff, yet polished sound that is hard to find comparisons for. It’s sad to see the song go, but it’s nice to know that there’s more of a ruckus trailing on its tail. “Let Fate Decide" uses the same spastic hammer-on/pull-off style to make the guitar seem downright robotic, all the while remaining passionate. As far as technicality is concerned, this is probably the best example of Clark Domae’s guitar skills that you’ll find on Comfort of Home.
“A Simple Line" is…well, a simple song: at least in comparison to the previous tracks. Still, Domae does an amazing job incorporating some speedy arpeggios and nifty slide work, especially in the bridge. If you’re not a fan of guitar solos, you may want to avert your ears for about ¼ of this disc. Okay, so maybe that was an exaggeration. Still, you would be hard-pressed to go more than a couple of minutes without stumbling upon a solo and stubbing your toe on its girth.
Track 4 could quite possibly stupefy listeners who have too many preconceived notions about what your garden-variety pop-punk album sounds like. Get this: it’s an instrumental. No, you did not read that wrong. You do not need to adjust your monitor nor do you need to check for a tiny man who may be hiding inside of it and playing a practical joke at your expense. This is, indeed, an instrumental placed only four tracks into the disc. And guess what Polly Punk Rock Practioner, that’s not the only one on the album! Two others, which have similar melodies, help to tie the songs together and make the album feel whole.
Once you’re able to revive your vitals from that previous shocker, Rufio thrusts you back into the luminous vocals and out-of-left-field guitar playing that you have no doubt by now become accustomed to. Sure, some of the lyrics in “Never Learn" do little to add to anything other than banality (i.e. “Think before you open that door" repeated to the nth degree), but if you can overlook those little missteps, you’ll find a couple of gems (“Who needs a mind when you’re in the spotlight?"). Give this one a chance, and it’ll grow on you like a pimple on picture day. You’ll probably want to tune out most of the lyrics on “Bitter Season" as well. They focus on a relationship gone sour. Heard that one before? Sure you have, and probably in a better song with better lyrics. So take in the cool riff that’s played during the chorus and move on.
Okay, so by the time you get to “Mental Games" you’ll have realized that revolutionary lyrical matter is not this band’s strong point. This is another song about a dwindling boy-girl relationship. There’s really no need to provide an example of any of the lyrics, because most of you would be able to predict them anyhow. So again, I will tell you to listen to the solid background guitar during the chorus, and move along. It’s a little less over-the-top, but nonetheless enthralling.
Hay-Oh! At Track 8, we’ve reached the second of three instrumental breaks. This one is sure to get even the lowliest of junkies’ adrenaline flowing. It starts off with a similar rhythm to the previous instrumental track, but then segues into an intense speed-metal riff that wouldn’t seem the least bit out of place in a Pantera song. Two gigantic thumbs up to the drummer, Mike Jiminez, for providing a frantic pacing that makes me feel like I just snorted a line of confectionary sugar.
“Drowning," although having a somewhat depressing title, provides one of the most upbeat tracks on the album. But make no bones about it, the lyrical flesh of this song fits the title perfectly. Here’s an excerpt: “You’re gasping for a taste of air/With a hand I hold you down/Your crying out won’t save you now/Everything will end with me." Burrrrrrrr. Someone close that window, you’re letting all the sadistic air in. Thankfully “Questions and Answers" comes in with a straight-jacket to keep the lyrics in control. Scott is pleading for someone to offer words of comfort, meanwhile offering us the best lyric to be found on the entire album: “These silent nights are deafening." Simple, understated, and beautiful all in the same breath. Anyone who has ever felt completely lost or alone will relate to those words.
Though the past couple of songs were well and good, I can’t help but feel like there was something missing. Lucky for us, Domae fills that void in “Life Songs" with more of his insane guitar picking. Every sporadic fill is like a tiny, contained seizure. Amidst Scott’s singing of “Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh," he scrapes his pick against his guitar strings, creating a shriek that matches Scott’s voice perfectly. Dumb little things like that make me so giddy.
Know what else makes me giddy? INSTRUMENTALS, BlTCH!!! (Sorry…that was unnecessary.) Track 12 is the last of the three part series, and shares a similar frantic energy with the second. However, this is much more immediate and probably even a little gratuitous. I love it. Jon Berry lays into his bass with some serious authority here, just as with all of the instrumentals actually.
Slowing the pace down a bit, “Walk Don’t Run" is a bit too forthright in its message. The title tells you everything you need to know about the song. It’s slower, less frantic, less immediate… and less Rufio! I don’t hate this song. I just don’t find myself listening to it all that intently. Sure, Domae is still there flinging cool guitar licks at us like he’s tossing change at a hobo, but everyone else seems to have encased themselves in malaise. It’s too bad, because this has one of the better guitar riffs on the album, and would have been even better if accompanied by some good lyrics. On the other hand, “A View to Save" rocked my little brain by stepping up more than a few rungs on the lyrical ladder. Scott creates some amazing imagery in the third verse, which would be stupid to try and describe. So instead, I’ll just put the whole thing here:
“Like a drug, so addictive
At first that you can't ignore
Feel you pace, through my veins without a trace
How I crave for more
I'm slipping away tonight
I've become so mesmerized
I'm burning up inside"
The next two songs might as well have been combined into one. “Interlude" is basically a glorified intro to the final track, “My Escape." The simple guitar backing on the “Interlude" sounds very much like the Velvet Revolver ballad, “You Got No Right." Setting aside that comparison, “My Escape" brushes the quiet tones off its back and rips into a befuddling song. Guitar: great. Drums: great. Bass, vocals, everything is great. But the lyrics are downright confusing. The bulk of them are directed, angrily it seems, towards Rufio’s fans. He sings about how he hates touring and everything that goes with it. Apparently, he gets no satisfaction from it, which is laid out in lyrics like “You love these notes, I hate this road," “I love these strings, I hate these chords" and “I love these crowds but I need more." Is he saying that he doesn’t like his job? The line “We built these walls to last forever/And now I’m planning my escape" leads me to believe that he’s contemplating quitting, or at least taking a lot of time off. Hopefully that’s not the case and I’m grossly misinterpreting his words. But I can’t help but wonder…
If you consider yourself a fan of punk rock, or even of speed metal, it would be wise of you to invest a few bucks in this album. Some people might be turned off by the crosspollination of the two genres, but give it a fair chance before you fling it to the wayside with your collection of Good Charlotte CDs. I did. And I’m glad that I did. Because even though there are a few minor missteps along the way, Comfort of Home is a solidly entertaining album with an innovative edge. So, even if Rufio does take a break, or even quit, at least I’ll have this wonderful album to comfort me while I lay frozen in the fetal position in the corner of my bedroom.