Blurry looks, on paper, like it sounds, in your headphones (or in your speakers, if you’re into self-indulgent puns). It’s produced by Adam Landry and Justin Collins (Deer Tick) and there’s a good deal of Deer Tick coming through in the Rouge’s music. This is also an EP that was put together after the group scrapped an entire album they were unsatisfied with, and again, that comes through in their music. This is the work of a group with something to prove: songs with a vengeance.
The Rouge wastes no time defining their cowboy folk style - right off the starting line they give us “Cocaine Hero” loaded with raspy snare hits and rueful vocals singing colloquial lyrics like, “I love you like a ten pound hammer / And I promise not to ever ramble.” It’s all bound together in humbly simple production.
“Hand Cuffs” is their anthem, a chance for all their grit to show through their modest song construction. It has a rockabilly swing that brings the audience back to a place where folk was beginning to marry the other musical landscapes it was coexisting with to create primordial rock & roll. The song tells a tale of going to Sputnik (the local bar), complete with a description of the bartender, driving under the influence, and drunkenly making love. The title is a stripped down metaphor for being hopelessly shackled to another in love. It has all the old rock clichés, yet somehow avoids coming off too cliché.
The most recent revival of folk has seen the already convoluted term further bastardized and co-opted by anyone who can get their hands on it. We see artists bring a lot of other genres into contemporary folk and a lot of those genres, in one way or another sprang from the revered Folk Revival of the ‘60s. Bands like Dawes and Deertick found a way to bring folk into indie and Johnny Hobo & The Freight Trains brought punk’s attitude to the table. The Rogues are sitting somewhere between and since we’ve just shown how versatile the folk genre can be it will be really interesting to keep a close eye on how they continue to define their position on the folk-spectrum in time for their album.
1. Cocaine Hero
2. Hand Cuffs
5. We the Free