Rough Church‘s new release ‘Emergency Breakthrough’ is an album – and sound – that is really difficult to categorise. What is certain is it is a thoroughly enjoyable serving of unbridled, unhinged indie rock with a siding of humour and compassion.
There is a wild Pixies element with an unhinged, explosive and unpredictable side (‘That’s Right Precious’), there is a low fi thundering buzz that hints at Dinosaur Jnr and Gun Club (Johnny Thunders cover ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’) and the sardonic and studied prose of the late great David Berman (Silver Jews).
‘Who’s Awake’ has bottled the 90s slacker rock scene into a buzzsaw blitz with singer Greg Franco’s laconic delivery ultra cool and louche with walls of guitar that would smash any pumpkins.
‘Autumn’ is another side of a fascinating coin: an epic restrained jazzy tune that evokes smoking jackets and pencil-thin moustaches: soulful and mesmerising. This followed by the double bass swing of ‘Good Woman’ that swirls in gorgeous violins and plaintiff vocals – with almost a Celtic folk vibe.
Opening track ‘Song For Moms’ is a shuddering non-stop blitzkreig that slams along with a degree of unhinged joy. Pure cathartic rock:
‘Christmas in our Car’ is sung by with pathos and sweetness by guest Clementine Bullen but deals with the vicissitudes of poverty and homelessness, a stark exposition of hardship in the US. And this is something that is quite clear: Rough Church are not empty bluster and noise but have intelligent lyrics and an expansive musical creativity.
‘A Comet (You Are)’ is pure anthemic pop – passionate and bubbling with energy.
Ending track ‘Puma’ is a case in point about Rough Church’s musical versatility and multi-coloured palette – a spoken word stream of casual poetry filled with veracity and humour. Franco says of the song:
While I was doing some music in NYC I had a great cab ride where this driver named Puma who told me a part of his life story. I had to re-tell it here, but it is his truth which gets us back to the universal truth that sometimes Emergency Breakthroughs can come to us and bring a hard lesson to us, maybe we even have to suffer, but if we learn the lesson, and apply that to our lives, we may have found the key that can open doors and make our lives lot better. We are resilient, we are Stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get back to the garden.
The instrumentation throughout the album is multi-layered and complex – strings and a plethora of sounds that drift in and out of your mind – hypnotic at times, eviscerating at others.
Emergency Breakthrough is a brilliantly entertaining album: full of surprises, diverse, imbued with self-deprecatory humour and a wild, unhinged punk sensibility. If an emergency breakthrough is when a telephone operator interrupts a phone call for an urgent matter, this is an aptly-named album. It really is a much needed interruption to normal services.
The album is available through the NocturnalSol label and you can get it via all the usual downloading/streaming services or through the link below: