Rogue Wave – Permalight

Rogue Wave – Permalight

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The apprehensive reactions of some after the release of Rogue Wave’s third LP, Asleep At Heaven’s Gate, was perplexing to me for a number of reasons. Some of the initial comments referred to discrepancies in the music in relation to the two previous Rogue Wave albums and the album’s lack of accessibility when compared to their Sub Pop efforts. To me, Asleep At Heaven’s Gate was directly accessible and a fully realized product of what I believed Rogue Wave to be capable of. I still find myself coming back to it. But if the incremental growth from albums two to three was enough to caution some fans, then I expect there might be a lot of hate-mail on the way for Permalight.

In addition to being the most upbeat, syncopated album Rogue Wave has made, Permalight is also the most sonically miscellaneous, as well. Given that Rogue Wave is (essentially) Zach Rogue’s song ideas filled out with a band, it’s satisfying that the instrumental palette is clearly more indicative of a band mentality this time. Hearing a synth or electronic drum taps on a Rogue Wave track has to be a form of heresy in somebody’s religious text. Yet, there they lie, apparent and lucid as daybreak, serving as the undercurrent that push tracks like “Good Morning (The Future)” and “Permalight” into dance hall territory.

“Good Morning (The Future)” stands out as the black sheep only upon the first few listens mainly because of its heavy reliance on synths; but then it settles in nicely with the other odd and would-be burdensome elements on the record such as the tinny, overly intense guitar sound on “Permalight,” the mechanical grindings that trail out the chorus of “Stars and Stripes,” and the choppy, industrial syncopation of the guitar on “You Have Boarded.” All are mixed upfront, so there is no chance you’re going to miss them unless you purposefully overlook them, or, god forbid, skip the entire album. But to do so, to rush to such a snap decision about such a buoyant album, would be faulty; an act of malice that Rogue Wave haven’t earned and don’t deserve.

Despite all the unusual and unaccustomed elements, Permalight is still a hell of a Rogue Wave album. It’s one that’s gotten dressed up to masquerade in black light in somebody’s basement for a few songs, but it still retains its identity and assuredness when all is over. “Solitary Gun” and “We Will Make a Song Destroy” are reassurances of that and “Sleepwalker” and “I’ll Never Leave You” are models of what Rogue Wave produce at their finest moments: softly strummed acoustic guitars with Zach Rogue’s tenor aching outward with the conviction of a lullaby. “Fear Itself” is amongst the best songs in the band’s catalog, a definite mark that Rogue Wave aren’t just dallying in unfamiliar territory but honing their crafts and adding some new flourishes.

Typically, I try stay away from the context of an album’s genesis, but Rogue has stated that after a bout of near-paralysis from slipped discs in his neck, he wanted to make an upbeat album conducive to movement. On that front, he’s succeeded greatly; Permalight is full of moving, pulsing tracks that feel good to hear. But what will be interesting to see is if Rogue keeps some of the elements employed for Permalight on subsequent albums, or if the album ends up being an anomaly in the Rogue Wave canon. If the first lines of album closer “All That Remains” are indication—“now we’re born again” — we may have an answer.


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