When you hear the title track of the Charleston trio Rusted Revolution’s new album, you’re going to feel like you know where things are headed. The track, “Rock ‘n’ Roll is in Short Supply,” is fueled by John Haas’ greasy slide guitar line and bassist Paul Rivers’ blustery lead vocal on top of Matt Minotti’s piston-pumping beat.
It’s about as straight-ahead as a rock song gets, and it preps the listener for nine more tracks of the same. That’s when Haas steps up to the mic on the next track, the beautifully titled, “Love Dump,” and things take a serious left turn.
Haas’ nasal, nerdy voice cuts through the song’s jittery bounce, decrying the woman who “dumped her love all over me.” It’s a weird, angular track that sounds for all the world like a lost early-80s new wave track, some kind of weird cross between Talking Heads and Devo.
Welcome to the odd world of Rusted Revolution’s Rock ‘n’ Roll is in Short Supply. The album is a 10-song standoff between Rivers’ meat-and-potatoes rock sensibility (the swaggering “Love’s Got To Be Free,” the stomping shuffle, “Lights Are Out in the City Tonight”) and John Haas’ tightly wound oddball rants (“Anxiety” and “Okay Adjacent”).
“Paul wrote five songs, and I wrote five,” Haas said. “We each sing lead on the ones we’ve written, and we each mix the ones we’ve written as well. My roots are in punk and new wave and alternative rock, so that’s kind of what comes out.”
Rivers is also a big early new wave fan, but his tastes have progressed — or perhaps regressed — into a different place. “John and I were both old-school punk-rock goths back in the ’80s,” he said. “We both listened to bands like The Cure, Joy Division, The Cult, Depeche Mode, all of those new wave bands. But then, I started getting into that Southern swamp-type rock, so there’s that flavor in there along with this new wave flavor as well. It’s a strange hodgepodge of our decades of experience in music.”
The end result is an album that feels like it has a split personality, but both of them are fun — and, both writers’ songs hold up well next to each other. “We always try to keep the songs consistent,” Rivers said. “If you listen to the album, I still feel like they all fit together.”
As much as it sounds like Rivers and Haas work separately, both men, who have their own solo projects as well, say that Rusted Revolution is very much a collaborative effort.
“I don’t think any of the songs, if we’d just done them solo, would sound like they do today,” Rivers said. “There’s definitely a collaboration in what we like and don’t like. We’ve had differences of opinion, but we don’t have full-on fights about production or anything like that.”
“I enjoy collaborating with others and seeing what comes out of it,” Haas added. “In my head, we both come from a very similar place, even with our different styles of singing and writing. We come up with things together that I don’t think we would’ve come up with on our own.”
The album was largely recorded live at Omar Colon’s Fairweather Studio on James Island, and the band’s approach was, as Rivers called it, “old-school.”
“You rehearse the crap out of it,” he said, “you get in there, and you crank out the songs. We were maybe doing two takes of the songs, and that was it. We’d add extra instrumentation later as needed, but a good portion of it is us playing in a room together, including the vocals, too.”
As for the album title, Rock ‘n’ Roll is in Short Supply, well, it’s kind of self-explanatory. For these veteran rockers, things ain’t what they used to be out there in the music biz.
“You don’t hear all that much rock on the radio anymore,” Rivers said. “If you go back to the ’90s, rock ‘n’ roll just dominated the airwaves, and today, it’s more pop focused. And, I don’t think that’s a bad thing because I enjoy modern music as well. But, you really don’t hear rock ‘n’ roll on the radio anymore, even though there are a lot of great rock bands.”
And, the guys add that it ain’t just the radio that’s missing good old rock ‘n’ roll. “The short supply also extends to the music scene in Charleston,” Haas said. “You have it at places like The Royal American and Tin Roof, but otherwise it’s hard to find any original rock ‘n’ roll bands live.”
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