Voodoo Doughnut Recordings
Rough Roads is the first full-length album by lo-fi rock trio Top Down. Although based in Portland, the band’s international members hail from the U.S., Germany, and New Zealand. Associated acts include Chain & The Gang, Dead Moon, and The Coolies.
Unfortunately for listeners, this album is nothing particularly special or innovative. The album suffers from somewhat unimaginative guitar riffs (“Silver Ashes”, “Blue Mountain Blues” “Rough Road”), though it does have some noteworthy guitar performances with songs like “She’s Gone” and the closing track “Steer Me”.
While Szim’s & Struggler’s vocals are technically adequate (in terms of both singing ability and recording quality), their performances are usually delivered without any identifiable passion. Lyrically, the album is fairly simplistic, and mostly addresses themes of romance and personal relationships.
“She’s Gone” is definitely the standout track on the album. Without trying too hard, ”She’s Gone” sounds like a lost Mudhoney song–a welcomed anomaly on the album. Other than that however, each track on the album is relatively predictable. The benefit of this strategy is that the album is consistent. The downside though, is that the album doesn’t challenge any existing conventions in the lo-fi, garage rock genre, nor does it attempt to produce anything unique.
Top Down is definitely a band with potential, but only if they decide to focus on writing quality songs rather than enough songs to fill an album. Tracks like “She’s Gone” and “Steer Me” are demonstrative of the trio’s ability to create music that can attract and sustain the interest of listeners, but a couple of enjoyable songs on an overall forgettable album leaves an impression of carelessness for craft. For now, Top Down is a band to keep an eye on, though Rough Roads is nothing particularly praiseworthy.eview
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: TOP DOWN – ROUGH ROADS