Review Summary: An interesting new spin on alternative rock that slightly outstays its welcome.
It’s difficult to approach many rock albums these days without even a bit of prejudice before listening. I only need one hand to count the number of rock acts actually striving to do something radical and new to prevent the genre from collapsing under its own weight. Even worse, if I were to name one such band to the general public, I would be most likely be met with blank stares as to who they are. So when a band like Middle Class Rut comes along touring with the likes of Chevelle and My Chemical Romance, it’s easy to fall into a certain attitude of pessimism and low expectations. You know you are getting a “rock” album (in some form or another) and it will have moments that remind you of other bands and maybe a few strong songs that leave their mark.
That’s why it was such a welcome surprise to hear their single “New Low”. It is a very difficult sound to pin down to just one or two influences and it sounds nothing like the previously mentioned bands they toured with. This catchy little number doesn’t even use heavy riffs to make its presence known, rather a wonderful blend of the strong vocals from Zach Lopez and Sean Stockham who make up both halves of the group. It also features a nifty little guitar groove before leading into the chorus that surprised even this hard rock fanatic.
It’s a bit unfortunate then that the single doesn’t translate into an entire album full of ideas like “New Low”. No Name No Color
is at its core just another hard rocker, featuring heavy guitar over a mixture of wailing and screaming from both vocalists. It has some good ideas, but too often either doesn’t play to its strengths or doesn’t execute them properly. But there are just enough strong and even innovative moments here that make the album worth checking out. The choruses all make effective use of the Lopez/Stockham harmonies and the sound is an intriguing blend of the anthem-like style of Filter (see “Are You On Your Way”) with some blues rock mixed in as well courtesy of The White Stripes. It’s also nice to see that the single wasn’t the only place where something innovative could be found. “I Guess You Could Say” features an addition of the mariachi guitar that makes the song more distinguishable than it otherwise should have been.
The problem is that aside from these select few moments, most other songs take their formula at its most basic level and repeat it until the listener has essentially heard the same idea be played for over 50 minutes. To say the album could have used a few gentler moments is an understatement. There are literally no breaks on this album; it’s all wailing verses and guitar for the entirety of the album. It’s a fine sound that suits them, but when filler songs like “Sad to Know” come on, it is beyond the point of overkill and some variety would surely have been welcome. It also makes it difficult to see just how the band plans to evolve after this. What will the next album sound like" How could they possibly bring something new to THIS
sound that isn’t done here"
The lyrics also suffer, which I guess makes sense when all the vocalists really do is yell. It’s hard to write a sophisticated and unique line when all you require to be true to your strategy is simply “loudness”. So when lines like “I see now that I won’t let go, yeah I won’t let go”
pass through the speakers, there’s a certain underwhelming sense of deja-vu. You have heard most of what Middle Class Rut have to say already from other bands, and the tone of the album really isn’t much more than anthems about life being tough and how important it is to be your own man and not listen to what other people say.
Don’t dismiss them though. Amidst all this, Middle Class Rut has
structured a solid debut album. If you’ve enjoyed what little you might have already heard from them, expect to find at least a couple more tracks to love on No Name No Color
despite much of the album being a recycling of itself. It is nice to see something within the genre that stood out as fresh, even if that feeling is short-lived and by the end of the album feels overdone. But it gives you hope that maybe they have a few more ideas left in them.
Busy Bein’ Born, New Low, One Debt Away, Are You On Your Way