To begin, I would like to give this band (or possibly Chad Ruiz at Razor’s Touch who engineered the release) an immediate cyber-high-five for including all of the appropriate meta data on the song files that were sent to SDP. Folks, it’s as annoying as brushing your teeth and drinking a glass of orange juice to get submissions without these important details. When I have to research the names of the songs and try to figure out what the album title is etc, I’ve already lost my will to even listen to your songs let alone do a review of them. Sadly, the lion’s share of submissions SDP receives do not even include the band name. Pathetic! Having said that, thank you men! It is much appreciated!
While I’m in the thanking spirit, I’d now turn directly to the members of The Rough to say thanks for putting out a solid e.p.. Drew Smith, Mike Smith, and Darren Sader (previously of Motionless, Bankers Hill, Save Amos, The Binge…and more) have put together a debut release that is a welcoming introduction to a new local San Diego band. With only 5 songs, the release covers a lot of ground. From hard hitting funk grooves, to classic 90’s melodic punk, on down to acoustic sing-alongs, the evidence of this band’s intent is clear. The intent I write of centers around thoughtful song writing with solid arrangements and execution, and above all diversity.
As I listened through, I found that the first three songs brought to mind very specific band comparisons for me. The first song titled Not You has a bit of a split personality. The verses consist of a pulsing downbeat funk groove with perhaps the most vocal flare on the release. For anyone who has been a repeat visitor to the NAMM Convention, if you spent any after hours time at the Hilton, you may have caught a set from a band named Ugly Stick. The verses in Not You have a similar style to what Ugly Stick might showcase. It’s loaded with grit and syllables with a bluesy, funk, feel appeal to it (hip hop smoothed out on the R&B tip…j/k). In short, it rocks! When the chorus drops, there is a bit of a paradigm shift into a mid-tempo pop punk vibe that immediately reminded me of This Ain’t a Scene, It’s An Arms Race by Fallout Boy. Love or hate this comparison…it matters not. The similarity is undeniable and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The following track is called One More Time. After a quick 8 count with a short guitar fill, the music drops into a speedy 90’s melodic pop punk mode. With a classic 4 chord intro, the progression moves from B…to F#….to A….to the big open E. The movement is colored up with sliding octaves to create the feel that essentially defined the 90’s pop punk sound. The vocal stylings immediately brought to mind MXPX as the phrases are spread out a bit and delivered with a little more sustain as one might remember from a younger Mike Herrera. In the absence of any discernible repeating hooks coupled with a well hashed sonic mode, the arrangement almost feels mildly disjointed as if generated by a less polished band from the gents who did the first track. While this track isn’t necessarily the one that grabs a listener, The Rough doesn’t get hung up on it and they continue to change things up on subsequent tracks.
Satin Gloves is a slower tune that The Rough has released a lyric video for. You can check it out on their Reverbnation site as well as from the link on their Facebook band profile. Anyone who knows me is aware of my long appreciation of the band The Swellers, and this third song compares nicely to some of their slower works. With a fair share of highlights up to this point, that last two tracks really end on a high note. Time Is is a great heartfelt song that compiles a number of the bands signature elements into one arrangement. With one heck of a catchy chorus, I’m genuinely excited to see these guys perform live just so I can sing along, “It strikes a chord in all our hearts and what we say…it strips the love and leaves us bleeding honestly…it starts the wars and heals the pain in every way…it drives the force behind all that we want to be”.
The release closes out with a track titled Animals. While it’s easy to hear how the arrangement could translate to a distorted pop rock rendition, the EP version is all acoustic. The sing along quality of the song is on par, if not even more so than Time Is. It’s the type of tune that lends itself well as a closer in a live set and is yet another one that I’m looking forward to chanting along with in the crowd! “Here’s to you…you simple minded fool!” Now let’s slosh some beers and enjoy The Rough! Put em on your radar!
3.75 out of 5 SDP Skulls (I should give this a 4 for meta data bonus points)
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan