By Allyson Bills
Oakland, California’s Rogue Wave has overcome numerous obstacles as a band since their 2004 debut album, Out of the Shadow. For starters, former multi-instrumentalist Evan Farrell died in a house fire in 2007; later in 2009, adding insult to injury, vocalist-guitarist Zach Rogue suffered a neck injury that left him unable to play guitar for a long period of time. Despite all the negative events that happened to the band, there was a bright spot of Rogue having a son while recording 2013’s Nightingale Floors. Rogue having a child led him to take time off from Rogue Wave and focus on parenting. Fast forward to 2016, Rogue Wave rounded out the lineup with Pat Spurgeon on drums and vocals, Dan Lead on guitar and vocals, Masanori Christianson on bass, and Rob Easson on synthesizer and guitar to release their sixth album, their first in three years, the entirely self-produced Delusions of Grand Fur.
Sometimes, time is golden, and other times it’s detrimental. This is more or less the case with Delusions of Grand Fur. The album begins with “Take It Slow,” which sounds like a classic Rogue Wave song with their signature electronic-folk sound. Even at some points, “Take It Slow” sounds like it could belong on a Mumford & Sons album. With that being said, “Take It Slow” isn’t the most compelling number in which to open up an album because of how rushed the vocals sound, and then it suddenly cuts to a drum solo to end the song. It’s a very disorganized track, and the antithesis (sound-wise) to literally “Take It Slow.” Rogue Wave takes their electronic-folk sound one step further with “In the Morning.” This track is very reminiscent of the material found on Rogue Wave’s token 2010 dance album, Permalight, with the sharp drums and quick synthesizers. Despite the catchy laden with hooks and its blissful, rockin’ edge, “In the Morning” has the fade-out ending that leaves the song unfinished, an aspect in song-writing for which I personally have a distaste. One would think by spending three years to record an album, songs wouldn’t still be undeveloped. Apparently, Rouge Wave didn’t receive the memo.
One of the few gems off Delusions of Grand Fur lies in “California Bride.” The sound of the track itself is “quintessentially California” with the guitars as fluffy as beaches in sky. However, the lyrics refute this “ideal California imagery,” speaking about not wanting to face reality of possibly a relationship, “Don’t want to wake up // Because to wake up is to face up.” Perhaps the catchiest track off Delusions of Grand Fur is “Look at Me,” and not just for the jangling sound and chorus. The track also pertains an important message about gun violence in America. The lyrics throughout “Look at Me” are powerful, especially the lines, “In a vast expanse of gut // I think you’re gonna burn // Yeah, the gun cannot just shoot itself…The truth is such a nagging thing // Always in the way.” However, the only reservation that I have with “Look at Me” is how the chorus cuts out suddenly and ends the song.
If you want to feel the philosophical fees, then “Falling” is the song for you. If you are still trying to figure out what it means to be human, you are not alone, because Rogue Wave feels your pain. Nothing hits it on the head more than with this line: “We live in an era when things for sale // Like a commodity for something else.” Despite the dark nature of “Falling,” it’s a one of Rogue Wave’s weaker efforts off Delusions of Grand Fur because it’s too short at just 2:12 minutes long, and fails to expand upon the verses. In “Curious Me,” Rogue Wave tries their hand at “subtle country” with an electronic twist of relaxing guitars and synthesizers. It’s a song about feeling someone’s presence, despite them not being there physically, which the lyrics ring true, “The August sky looks gray and glum // Leave a message so you know where I’m calling from.” “Curious Me” is also one of many songs that are undeveloped off Delusions of Grand Fur due to the rushed ending.
Rogue Wave channels their inner MUTEMATH in “What Is Left to Solve” with Rogue’s vocals akin to Paul Meany. Even the sound of “What Is Left to Solve” is eerily similar to MUTEMATH with the smooth synthesizers and even drum beats. Rogue Wave has been known to experiment with dance music, which is evident in their 2010 effort “Permalight.” However, “What Is Left to Solve” doesn’t mesh with the overall electronic folk nature of Delusions of Grand Fur. It’s definitely a testament to needing a third part to decide which tracks are necessary to be on an album. The “dance craze” part of Delusions of Grand Fur continues into “Frozen Lake,” where Rogue Wave takes corniness to a whole new level because my ears bled while listening to this track. The chorus sounds like an awful falsetto with synthesizers that made me think of nails scratched on a chalkboard. Even the lyrics of the chorus of “Am I perfect enough for you” create the disillusion that one may need outside approval. “Frozen Lake” needs to be thawed, and thawed fast.
In “Endless Supply,” Rogue Wave sticks to their electronic sound in which they appear to be comfortable. This is one of the few tracks of Delusions of Grand Fur where the band’s chemistry feels authentic in that they are being true to themselves. “Endless Supply” has the signature guitar breakdowns that I have come to know and love about Rogue Wave. Also, Rogue’s catchy voice, especially in the chorus, makes “Endless Supply” a memorable track off the album. “Ocean” is another rare gem off Delusions of Grand Fur with its dancy feel, but not too indulgent that takes away from the simple nature of the song. The synthesizer creates another layer to the rock edge of the track. The torrential nature of the ocean in general is known to be the survival of the fittest, and the line “We will survive,” especially rings true. As much as I liked this song, I kept thinking “When will the record end?” The sequencing on Delusions of Grand Fur is terrible in that wonderful songs like “Ocean” are lost in a sea of mediocre tracks.
Speaking of mediocre tracks, “The Last Picture Show” is one of them. This largely has to do with Rogue Wave overcompensating by putting tracks on the album that have not developed into their full potential. “The Last Picture Show” has some nice guitar work, but that’s it. Other than this, there’s nothing memorable about “The Last Picture Show.” It’s just a boring, stagnant song. Much to my relief, the end of Delusions of Grand Fur is with “Memento Mori.” Personally, I’m not super into hardcore folk numbers, but “Memento Mori” is surprisingly simple and magical at the same time. It’s a sullen number for a rainy day, as well as for a sunny day. The lyrics of “I failed you like you failed me” will make you even want to question relationships and humanity in general. Good stuff.
In its entirety, Delusions of Grand Fur is sold in some parts and weak in others. The weak parts appear to a result of lack of outside voices because this album is poorly tracked; you have to dig deep to find the gems. Delusions of Grand Fur is not Rogue Wave’s best album to date. However, there are tracks that you will love.