“It’s not you, it’s me.” We’ve all heard it before. It’s that phrase that is supposed to make the other person feel better when breaking up, implying that the speaker has changed; has moved beyond their significant other, and that therefore, they are to blame. It’s a double-edged sword, aside from being a complete cop-out. What is worse, outgrowing someone, or staying the same, unchanged, being outgrown? Both can be curses, in musical tastes as well as relationships. Rogue Wave, unfortunately, have cut with both edges of that sword.
I remember being incredibly charmed by Out of the Shadow. In fact, I am still charmed by it. I can be wooed by “Kicking the Heart Out” and charged by “Endless Shovel.” Descended Like Vultures, though still charming, was made somewhat less so in being so closely related to its predecessor. A change to Brushfire Records also brought a change to the band’s style, going from scrappy and somewhat adorable to laid-back, glossy and distanced. I still held out hope for Rogue Wave’s next release, Permalight, only to have that hope dashed once again.
First of all, big studio production does not suit this band. Sure, maybe Rogue Wave, as well as bands such as the Shins, Built to Spill and Sebadoh eventually played bigger venues, venues that their sound cannot adequately fill, but that simply means they should continue to play smaller places, not completely change up their style. Instead, Zach Rogue has gone from James Mercer comparisons to a Ben Gibbard imitation. One listen to the title track will display that tendency right away, not to mention the other various and sundry problematic things that are plaguing this record. Studio gimmickry is draped over the song, and the album, like a small vertical-striped halter top on a 6’4″, 350 pound dude, it doesn’t fit.
There are still some hints of Rogue Wave’s blissfully simple past, though it has to be viewed through a busy, kaleidoscopic lens. For the most part, Permalight tries too hard to be sunny and sweet, ending up blinding and saccharine. Listening to this new album is like trying to enjoy an ice cream cone after you’ve dropped it on the ground. You can try to lick around the bits of rock, dirt and schmutz, but in the end, you have to realize it’s just ruined. Sorry, RW, it’s not me, it’s you.