Ah, yes, alt-rock sheen; it’s here to stay. This pristine, depressingly hollow production style has been prevalent since the beginning of Y2K. The sound has its youthful niche, with pre-pubescent girls going doe-eyed for good looks and shredding. On their debut LP No Name No Color, Middle Class Rut looks for a sound from this extremely tapped out resource. Contrived emotional screaming and cheap power chords aside, for being a two-piece outfit, they can create some bombastic moments. Bombast, however, is the only thing they have.
Moments of sameness throughout the LP come and go, quick and slow, to the point of becoming mush into their targeted listener’s ears. This formulaic approach seems to be focused on front man Zack Lopez’s scratchy, deafening vocals. His technique is almost like a poor man’s Tim McIllrath (Rise Against The Machine). This guy will scream about anything – picking seemingly polar opposite topics and treating them with the same exact emotion. On USA, a bantering war song, he barbarically yells the same way he does on Dead End, a prissy, semi self-motivational song about wishful thinking: “Without your weight/ Life could so much lighter”. The words speak for themselves. Though, the irony rests in how weightless the words are.
Even though the alt-swag is ever present, musically there are some enlightening moments. On the six-minute long centerpiece track, Are You On Your Way, they take a sublime minimalist approach towards the end featuring hushed, grumbling, guitar sounds, that shows some promise in an otherwise inspirationally bleak song. Thought I Was shows another positive sign. It has a nice groove going for it, almost Black Keys-esque, minus the forced vocals and songwriting mis-steps.
Middle Class Rut has the mainstream appeal that surely they’re looking for. While it’s admirable that they’re supporting indie label Bright Antenna, their songs run like sold-out singles with all the real hooks replaced with lesser ones. The annoying screaming that Lopez completely misuses comes off manufactured and whiny. Which goes hand-in-hand with the album’s mind-numbingly relentless pace. With the hotshot new video for their latest single New Low�(which follows the trend of music video highway walks, ie. St Vincent‘s Marrow and Broken Bells‘ The High Road), these two Cali rockers will see success, at least in their eyes. And in the end, it’s not all bad; they have some promise in their instrumentation. But they need more variation in the nauseating vocal delivery.