Rufio: The Comfort of Home

[29 August 2005]

By Scott Carlson

I can’t speak for the current state of affairs, but in my younger days of public school, there was a direct correlation between rock T-shirts and a person’s personality. In the best of all scenarios, it was an easy way to identify ready-made buddies; if not that, at the very least it provided a safe port in the hurricane we all had to endure.

But things changed around 2001, the year Perhaps, I Suppose, the debut album from Rufio, was released. I was a senior in high school, and though I attended a nondescript Midwestern town, I thought I had a pretty good handle on popular music. But this was the year that underground, indie rock, and emo were thrust squarely at the mall stores stole. Suddenly, high schools across the country were flooded with shirts screaming about bands I had never heard of, some of them already legends in their own right and some that were rightly known only by a handful of true-believers.

But surely the largest concentration wore Rufio shirts. In time, thanks to a summer job at the local Hot Topic, I would come to understand Rufio was a California-based outfit that, along with Jimmy Eat World and the Get-Up Kids, helped pioneer the fusion of emo with the pop-punk already popular with bands like blink-182.

If nothing else, Rufio’s newest album,The Comfort of Home, is a clear indication of how the band became the sacred cows of high school hipsters. The album shows a band swapping genres from song to song, unpredictably switching from mid-tempo emo to blazing pop-punk to post-grunge. It’s a summary of the most popular genres clutched by the average high-schooler, making a veritable overture to a certain lowest common denominator.

Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. Popular music is classified as such because it appeals to a vast number of people. Rufio’s album has plenty of qualities that could push it toward the pop realm. With its solid guitars, solid vocals, and solid production, The Comfort of Home would be a shoo-in for pop-culture popularity if it wasn’t so blasted dull.

Deeming the album as bland is perhaps fitting for Rufio; banality is quite a subjective assessment, and subjectivity is the nature of the genres that birthed Rufio. One man’s dull rock ‘n’ roll album is another man’s Raw Power, but it’s hard to imagine most people (read: “non-fans”) listening to The Comfort of Home without wondering when the rehearsal’s going to finish and the REAL album will, well, start.

Besides containing fairly nondescript songwriting, the entire album on the whole is faceless. Lead singer’s Scott Sellers has a powerful voice that doesn’t falter, but it never seems to waver past the majority of vocalists on your average alternative rock radio station. I’ve heard the elements of this album before, but I can’t put my finger on where—largely because it’s too flat to even seem reminiscent.

Heck, I’d even love to quote some lyrics, but just about anything I’d transcribe could be from any of the songs.

But the real album killer is the vacancy of the Song. Serious music fans know that even-handed albums are hard to come by, and that popular music can produce some real stiffs on vinyl. But there’s the hope of finding the Song, the saving grace that makes the 15 bucks spent worth it all, whether it’s the radio hit or not. Sadly, The Comfort of Home is lacking even in this. They come close with “Drowning” and “A View to a Save” (ironically both melodic offerings), but neither have the necessary hooks or riffs to ingrain themselves to the public’s collective music memory.

All of these elements do not an awful album make. It does, however, provide a rather monotonous outing. Without a safe harbor of catchy material in a 13-song album, those of us who aren’t “in” on the group may be just as bewildered as in a high school flooded with T-shirts of bands we’ve never heard of.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/rufio-comfort/