by Cole Kinsler
New Hampshire’s Rick Rude perform with a magnetic feeling of earnestness. I think that’s what drew me to break away from the bar and drift further into the crowd when I first saw them perform early last year at a cramped Cambridge restaurant. I quickly noticed guitarist and singer Ben Troy’s guitar was missing two strings, but came to realize this is an intentional trademark of his. There’s a kind of passion you can hear in their voices that is rough around the edges; their whole set was filled with heartfelt bellows and a scrappy charm. Guitarist Ben Troy and bassist Jordan Holtz trade off vocal duties throughout the songs, backed by Noah Lefebvre (guitar) and Ryan Harrison (drums). After a slew of EPs over the past few years, the band is now releasing their debut full-length, Make Mine Tuesday on Sophomore Lounge and TinyRadars.
Fantastically titled “Bald and Fat in Houston, TX” is a welcoming introduction to the record. Softly strummed chords and a wobbly slide guitar lead into Troy’s hushed vocals. Eventually guitars get fuzzier, drums hit harder, and Troy’s voice transforms into an impassioned howl. The waltzing ballad “Buttercup” is the first track with Holtz taking lead vocals. “Wake up buttercup, wipe the sweat from your brow and the dreams from your eyes” she sings, in one of my favorite lyrical moments of the record. She continues, “Dreams come true, always in dreams / and shown behind eyes that see / drooled onto pillows and left there to dry until dreamt of again and again”. She paints a beautifully heartbreaking image of our fleeting, repetitive dreams. The band displays a keen understanding of dynamics and pacing on the record. Loud, grungy tracks are followed by soft ballads and vice-versa. While it’s an energetic experience overall, there’s an intentional fluidity to the sequencing that makes the record really enjoyable to listen to straight through. Album highlight “Shroud and Shell” builds on a simple chord progression that ultimately showcases Troy’s most ardent vocal performance on the record. He sings about the unknowns within the dark of night, and the fact that he truly cannot see that which he senses around him. Rick Rude are able to pull every morsel of fear and fury out of a straightforward, repeated structure. It’s one of the more affecting and unforgettable climaxes on the album. “Sierra L’Mist” quickly follows up with a more uplifting mood. The first half of the track sports a face-melting guitar sequence that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pile song. On the turn of a dime, the track changes its tone around the halfway mark. Holtz sings wholeheartedly over clean, shaky guitars reminiscent of early Built to Spill. The track is yet another example of the band’s musical dexterity.
I hear hints of a lot of great guitar bands throughout these songs, but at the end of the day, Rick Rude have a sound that is all their own. It’s a sound that’s playful, but not sloppy. It’s a sound that is heartfelt, not contrived. There’s nothing heavy-handed or overdone here. What comes through instead, is genuine emotion and strong songwriting. There’s an unmistakable warmth and magnetism in their playing. You can hear them enjoying themselves throughout the record. Make Mine Tuesday is a fantastic testament to the young band’s potential, and it’s an album I’ll be coming back to time and again this year.