Middle Class Rut – Pick Up Your Head
Record Label: Bright Antenna
Release Date: July 2 2013
Word of mouth can be a really awesome thing for music, because if you decide to check something out that someone recommends to you, there’s a chance that you may enjoy it, and you can attribute that person with giving you that suggestions. I don’t take suggestions often, but every so often, someone will suggest something to me that I’m already interested in. Currently, that band is indie/alternative duo Middle Class Rut. A friend of mine has been getting into them recently, and I knew they were about to release a new album, which is sophomore album Pick Up Your Head, so he suggested it to me, and well, I was already quite interested in it, so I had no qualms about picking it up, despite not knowing what I was getting into at all. That’s the fun of it, though. Buying a record of a band you either have never listened to, or merely a song or two from, and not really sure what you’re going to end up listening to, let along not sure if you’re going to love it or hate it. Well, thankfully, I did enjoy Pick Up Your Head, and I was pleasantly surprised with it. It was a really eclectic album, mixing alternative rock, and indie rock to make something quite unique, but at the same time, there was one thing that I really did not like that stuck out to me like a sore thumb. They were vocalists Zack Lopez and Sean Stockholm. The duo perform all the other instruments on the record, and while their voices aren’t bad, the vocals are very distorted and reverbed throughout the album. It gets real distracting, because they never let their voices truly shine. They’re hidden behind studio effects. It’s kind of cool for awhile, but then it just gets grating after awhile, because it’s nonstop. Other than that, there aren’t really any complaints I have upfront with this album. There are a few smaller things, but I’ll talk about them more later on in the review. The main thing that really helps this record, however, is its instrumentation. Their unique brand of alternative-meets-indie is really interesting, even if it may seem rather off putting on first listen. It seems off putting, because it’s so frantic, chaotic, and all over the place. It’s a really strange album, but it’s enjoyable.
The record begins with “Born Too Late,” and it’s one of the two shortest songs on the record, along with tenth track “You Don’t Belong.” Because of that, this song seems to serve the purpose of an intro, but it does its job nicely. There’s not much to the song, and it’s actually just two and a half minutes of a really fast and aggressive guitar riff (along with everything else) with distorted vocals from Lopez and Stockholm. If anything, this song does serve as a nice little “preview” for the rest of the album; chaotic instrumentation, but with rather catchy hooks, distorted vocals, and repeated lyrics. The same can be said for second track “Leech,” which isn’t as chaotic, but it does feature everything else I mentioned. It’s not a track that particularly sticks out, but it’s enjoyable, nonetheless. Because a lot of the songs do sound similar, the record can get kind of boring sometimes, but the one thing it does have going for it is its unique instrumentation. The duo has a really interesting mix of alternative rock, and indie-rock, yet one genre doesn’t overshadow the other. Third track “Weather Vein” has a really awesome guitar “solo” in the bridge of the track, with helps to switch things up. A few other tracks have some interesting moments, like the one-two punch in the form of fifth and sixth tracks “Cut the Line” and “Sing While You Slave.” The former is a more “indie” track, so the song isn’t so chaotic, but it’s nice for what it is. The latter, however, is totally the opposite. This song has a really awesome groove to it, and it’s one of the catchier songs on it. It almost kind of reminds me of a Beastie Boys track, because there’s a slight hip-hop vibe to it. It’s easily my favorite track on the record, and it shows off their sound quite nicely. The title track that appears a few tracks later is also really cool; it’s got another vibe similar to “Sing While You Slave,” and these songs rule.
The whole record is really solid, but some songs do have a tendency to fall to the wayside. Only a few songs do sound like “filler,” but for the most part, it’s a very engaging and entertaining record. As I did mention in the beginning, there are a few things that bug me, such as the distortedness of the vocals throughout the entire album, and the repetitiveness of the lyrics. The songs are catchy, and they definitely stick with you, the listener, but even then, the only thing that really separates this record from a lot of their peers is their instrumentation. It’s really erratic and chaotic, but it works nicely. If you’re interested in what you’re reading, I’d recommend picking up your head (and your wallet), and purchasing this record immediately. I know that was a bad joke, but I didn’t know how else to end this review.
Really great record, solid review--wholeheartedly agree with the reverb on the vocals, though I've gotten used to it after a few spins...I'd argue that the band has more in common with the likes of Jane's Addiction or Queens of the Stone Age at their noisiest than Silversun Pickups or New Politics but ultimately I'm sure bands of those bands would probably dig these guys too.
Stoked to see 'em with Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction, Coheed, etc. in a few weeks!