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Rogue Wave: Permalight

B+

Rogue Wave

Album: Permalight
Label: Brushfire

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It’s not surprising to see Rogue Wave in a different place than where the world last found it: The California outfit has consistently shifted its sonic priorities, going from souped-up indie-rock solo project on 2003’s Out Of The Shadow to big and dreamy on 2005’s Descended Like Vultures to dense (and unfortunately a bit lethargic) with 2007’s Asleep At Heaven’s Gate. Now the band has focused its attention on having fun, a response to leader Zach Rogue finally being able to move after two herniated disks left him debilitated for months. (The group is no stranger to trying circumstances, including well-documented kidney problems for drummer Pat Spurgeon and the death of former bassist Evan Farrell.) Rogue Wave has always been a pop band, which is why it’s odd that this turn of events ends up feeling like a risky move. There isn’t as much room for subtlety in Permalight’s quest for the ultimate hook, which means fans need to prepare themselves for electro-pop, songs that sound indebted to “Hey Ya!” and Blur, and lyrics like “Turn the light / on tonight / permalight / say goodnight.” The new formula will undoubtedly freak out some folks not used to shaking it like a Polaroid picture, but those willing to give the whole package a chance will be rewarded with a robust disc that deftly balances mindless fun with mindful focus.