Now we’re born again,” sings Zach Rogue on the closing track of Rogue Wave’s fourth studio album, Permalight.
The dreamy acoustic lament lasts just over a minute but in sound and spirit it neatly sums up everything that comes before it. A punchy, deceptively effervescent set of multi-instrumental pop tunes, the Northern California band’s latest set represents a giant breakthrough for Rogue and his longtime musical partner, drummer-keyboardist-vocalist Pat Spurgeon.
“The record sounds, for lack of a better word, fun,” the frontman says.
It’s an astonishing change of direction, to say the least. Formed by Rogue in 2002 after he lost his tech job and parted ways with the Oakland rock group Desoto Reds, Rogue Wave has a reputation for crafting classic, inward-looking pop songs highlighted with psychedelic guitars, pastoral sound effects and intricate rhythms.
On tunes from the new album like the title track “Permalight” and “Good Morning,” however, Rogue Wave steps away from expectations. Rogue says the former was written as a left-field sequel to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” with synthesizers that simultaneously sound brittle and blissful. “Stars and Stripes” builds on a deep groove before spilling over in a raging chorus. Clubby beats are prominent but the album doesn’t sit still for long. “Per Anger” is a straightforward rock tune that takes its cues from Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud dynamic.
Then there’s the album’s unofficial centerpiece, “I’ll Never Leave You,” a simple acoustic tune that finds Rogue coming to grips with the overwhelming emotions that come with young fatherhood. Like many of the songs on the album it’s rooted in Rogue Wave’s triumph over seemingly constant peril – including the tragic death of a former band mate and constant health issues – and the band’s undying determination to push forward.
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