Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
When Rogue Wave's "Permalight" was released this year, a lot was made of how lead singer Zach Rogue was going through some major health problems while he was in the midst of writing the record. He was bedridden with severe neck problems shortly after drummer Pat Spurgeon - the only other original member of the group still in the band - received his second kidney transplant. A number of great leaps were made with those bio bits, trying to apply the information to all of the lyrics of the songs, but most of it is just stabbing in the dark to these ears. While "Permalight" offers some of the most straight-forward lyricism of Rogue's career, it certainly does not chronicle slipped discs in necks and the often agonizing stay on a waiting list for a healthy organ. More so, it memorializes a place in time when better times can be seen far off into the distance and even if that's just a splitting of hairs difference, it feels as if it's a pretty big one. It feels as if the bleakness is there, everything's still overcast, but there are breaks in those clouds and something good could happen. Who knows if it ever will, but there's at least a chance. Rogue is "tired and worn" on these songs, but he offers up the perspective of a man who's been dragged through the briars and is just getting to the point where those cuts are starting to itch and that's when you know they're healing properly - the thorns are almost all plucked out. He's started to feel a surge of new energy and as he suggests on the title track, there are things that you need not be such a wimp or weakling about when you're starting to feel better. You're supposed to keep your lights on longer and you're supposed to get out there to experience things because someday, you really will be infirm forever and as useless as you could ever possibly be. You need to be going out to the clubs or just be one of the last men standing at a dinner party that gets more enriching with each subsequent hour and bottle of wine uncorked. Many of the songs seem to be coming from the perspective of someone who's finally starting to see clearer and the wool has been yanked from off of their eyes. They're aware - aware of so much. They're feeling feels again. They're getting chills and they're starting to feel that hop get right back into their steps. They've seen the past and they think they've seen very privileged parts of the future. Rogue sings on the infectious and wonderful single, "Good Morning," "The future isn't what it used to be/I'm not surprised/Do you think that we like to take our orders from fools/They're so far behind/So they ordered up a love machine/Directions to your house were demanding/Now I've got security/I long to let your hair fall around me/Fall around me/To me/It always is, always is assigned to me/Your love." This roundup of hindsight and a collection of peeks make for words that strike swiftly and hold no punches. It's as if the protagonists that Rogue brings to us are up to their eyeballs in questions, but what they have more of are cut-and-dry facts - knowing that the people they take orders from are shortsighted fools, not gods, and they know that things used to be different and that makes all of everything else a pinch harder to comprehend. A January wind is whipping across his back and there are multiple points of recognition that the recovery is underway and promises are able to be made once again. Rogue sings, "I'll never leave you/I'll never be like that/I'll never be the one I was in life…/The past is just dead/A thousand monkeys in my bed/The only thing I have is time/To bring back this bloodline of mine," and it all feels like a rebirth, some coming to terms.