Sunday, September 23, 2007

Asleep at Heaven’s Gate

It’s tough to think of many indie-rock bands from California — musically, it’s a state more associated with Compton-born rappers or pop-punk wannabees like No Doubt or Red Hot Chili Peppers. But indie rock? What’s there to be neurotic about amongst the blue skies and movie-lot vistas of the Golden State?
     Which is why Rogue Wave liberally poaches from their alt-rock brethren to the north. It’s hard not to hear the influence of Arcade Fire on the frustratingly-uneven Asleep at Heaven’s Gate, Rogue Wave’s third record, and their first on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire label. From the driving piano rhythms of album starter “Harmonium” to the de rigeur handclapping of “Lake Michigan,” Rogue Wave sounds like a band that would be happy to be stuck on the Canadian side of the border.
     And we’d be happy to have them, certainly after listening to the opening handful of songs on Asleep. I’d be hard pressed to come up with another record since Arcade Fire’s Funeral or Stars’ Set Yourself on Fire that begins with more of a bang. The album’s first four tracks — “Harmonium,” “Like I Needed,” “Chicago X 12,” and the immaculate “Lake Michigan” (which can be heard on JeffMix2007.09.17) — are stellar, demonstrating a level of quality and care that we’d expect from only the great bands of our time.
     Don’t rush to add Rogue Wave to that list yet, though, as evidenced by the rest of Asleep. The bottom half trades good song for bad, dreamy pop brilliance for lazy, mid-tempo snoozers. It’s a surprise, considering the production talent on board (Roger Moutenot, who’s produced Sleater-Kinney, Elvis Costello, and Yo La Tengo), but here’s a band that needs to tighten its act. They coulda been a contender. B+
Rogue Wave: Like I Needed (mp3)
Rogue Wave: Chicago X 12 (mp3)

No comments: