‘Permalight’ fun but lacking

Artist- Rogue Wave

Album- Permalight

Record Label- Brushfire Records

3 out of 5 Pitchforks

Just making it to 2010 was an uphill climb for Rogue Wave but releasing an album this year seemed a lot more like a trek up Mt. Everest.

Rogue Wave has spent much of its career being consistently sucker-punched by fate. In addition to the death of a band member, near-fatal kidney problems for another and a stream of members coming and going since the band’s inception, the group was also tantalized by opportunities that seemingly had them poised for indie stardom. Earlier this decade, the hit television show “The O.C.” tried to push this band into the world harder than a mother in labor.

But that never materialized into continued success for the band.

Alas, the stars just never aligned for Rogue Wave. But, after wading through a lion’s share of setbacks, the embattled — or cursed — band regrouped and released its latest record, and the first on a new label, titled “Permalight.”

Given its past work — ambient indie rock that never threatened to start any sort of party — and recent history, the band would have been allowed a free pass had it made a record that would have made even Morrissey sympathetic.

Instead of wallowing in their own sadness, though, the band members cashed in their old ambient clunkers for some shiny new dance jams on this go-around.

Despite hints of reverting back to old tendencies, like on the moody and slow-paced “Sleepwalker” or the album’s short finale “All That Remains,” Rogue Wave took on a whole new sound on “Permalight.”

The sunny acoustic-pop opener “Solitary Gun” is a welcome return from the band’s three-year break in between albums and, although upbeat, it is only a precursor of what the rest of the album holds.

Adrenaline is injected into the record on heavily produced dance anthems like “Good Morning” or the title track “Permalight.” The synthesizer grooves on the two tracks will surely have hipsters scrambling for their glowsticks but once that stops flowing, the songs feel a little lacking.

It’s pretty simple though — if you like these songs, you’ll like the record. The songs are all similar; they just inspire different levels of dance reactions. You can keep it cool with just a little head bob on “Stars and Stripes,” throw out some of the robot on “We Will Make a Song Destroy,” and then go bonkers on “Good Morning” or “Permalight.”

In fact, much of the record — aside from standouts like “I’ll Never Leave You,” “Right With You” and the aforementioned “Solitary Gun” — feels a bit like a Hail Mary.

Very aware of current trends, Rogue Wave threw this collection of dance-y jams into the airwaves on a hope and a prayer in one last desperate chance to gain the fame that has eluded them for so long. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Give the band credit though because, after a string of bad luck, they’ve shrugged off any self-pity and lightened up a bit with “Permalight.”

The music isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it certainly is a step forward from a tormented past.

Reach the reporter at jdfourni@asu.edu


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