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New ‘New Low?’ MC Rut returns with new album, local show

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News flash from the local music scene: Middle Class Rut is looking to make “New Low” the first single from their new record.

Um, wait a second. Haven’t we been down this road before?

“It’s kind of a funny situation, because no one outside of Sacramento got the same treatment with that song,” said Sean Stockham, the man who pumps the wailing lead vocals on “New Low” into his drive-thru headset of a microphone while mashing the drum kit.

“For Sac, we feel it’s sort of weird to do the push with ‘New Low,’” he said. “It’s like, ‘weren’t we just ambushed and barraged with this every day?’

“But it tells us that the song has the potential to do something, so we’re doing it in hopes that what happened in Sac will happen all over the place.”

It’s just like the song itself goes, “All I got now is today/ tomorrow ain’t here/ and yesterday has gone dead on me anyway.”

As one of the only local stations to consistently and prominently feature local music on its programming in recent years, KWOD’s 106.5’s economically motivated demise and transition into the current 106.5 “The Buzz” format in 2009 left the local music community virtually homeless, in terms of airplay.

But the popularity of Middle Class Rut’s “New Low” in 2008 and into 2009 provided what will always be remembered as the unofficial last hurrah of local rock and roll on the revered station – because we all need to hear Dishwalla and the Gin Blossoms instead of homegrown up-and-coming artists, right?

Along with “Busy Being Born” and a couple of other previously released favorites, “New Low” is back for round two, along with several fresh new offerings from MC Rut on their first full-length album, “No Name No Color,” which hits stores this week.

Middle Class Rut will celebrate the release of the new record with a local CD release show at The Boardwalk on Friday, October 8, along with Another Damn Disappointment, Kaleiding Design, and local upstarts Lite Brite. The Boardwalk is at 9426 Greenback Lane in Orangevale, and tickets are $9.47 (a nod to the radio station sponsoring the show, see if you can guess which one).

To say that a full-length album is a long time coming for Stockham and his right hand man, guitarist and vocalist Zack Lopez, would be an extreme understatement. They’ve been working on this since well before the MC Rut days, back when they were both a part of Leisure.

“That’s the understatement of the year,” Stockham said. “We’ve been doing this for so long, (Zack and I) have been working together for like 15 years, and we just figured it would never happen. It just became a joke.”

Since MC Rut’s formation, the only releases have been a smattering of EPs, including “25 Years” and the “Red” and “Blue” EPs. A decade and a half later, their first full length has finally been pressed.

“This day and age, you’re led to believe that you can do what you want, when you want (when you record),” Stockham said. “Yeah, putting music on Myspace is cool, but it doesn’t quite feel like a legit release. We want to go to Best Buy or Target and see our CD in the bin.”

MC Rut has become renowned for their breakneck recording pace; when they come up with a song, they immediately lay it down and get it on tape at their studio here in Sacramento.

In putting together “No Name No Color,” Stockham and Lopez sifted through a heap of more than 50 songs, some of which had been previously released and many having been stage tested, to narrow it down to the album’s dozen tracks. The result is a reflection of the creative interplay and total control that the blistering duo has established together.

“(In the previous band) I’ve always played drums and he’s played guitar and that’s been the end of it,” Stockham said, “but this time around (as MC Rut), the whole process has been totally streamlined. Normally we’d do just instrumental rock songs and hand them over to the other guy to do the lyrics, I just don’t think that’s how its supposed to be.”

In terms of both the lyrical fortitude and controlled instrumental chaos, a noticeable maturity and surgical quality bursts through on “No Name No Color.”

The epic scorcher “Are You on Your Way” could easily be stripped down into a coffee house ballad with an acoustic guitar (Stockham admits that MC Rut is finally now willing to cave in to offers to do acoustic sets for radio broadcasts, something they previously scoffed at), “One Debt Away” and “USA” are biting rock rumblers with intensely catchy hooks, and “Cornbred” has an almost organic hip hop quality to it.

It is almost impossible to deny that “No Name No Color” will provide the springboard for MC Rut, combining their now legendary live energy and thrashing guitar and drum riffs with a reigned-in creative force that will weaken the knees of most hard rock fans, and still be the token “heavy band” on the iPod of your average indie rock lover.

Case in point: Middle Class Rut nestles between MGMT and Minus the Bear on this reporter’s music library.

Behind this crafty new offering, it’s hard to envision this duo remaining “stuck” in the opening band slot, where they have spent the better part of the last year on treks with the likes of Alice in Chains and Social Distortion – although they do appear on a welcome billing with Sacramento’s own Deftones in Bakersfield (October 13) and Modesto (October 14).

“If you just consider the amount of people you’re playing for (as an opener), in that sense it’s dummy math,” Stockham said. “But at the same time, you’re only going to win over a certain percentage of the crowd. When Alice in Chains asks you to be the single opener, you do it, but we’re sick of being the opening band.

“It was an eye opening experience, for ‘New Low’ to do what it did in Sac and to instantly be able to book a show at the Boardwalk and sell it out on our own. Granted it’s only in one city, but now the goal is to go do that everywhere else, even if it’s Boardwalk sized venues or smaller. For us, that’s the dream.”


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