Huge life events are rarely isolated moments. Marriages don't end in a single bolt of anger so much as a drizzle of paperwork. Jobs often take weeks to unspool. Even the birth of a child takes months. So when the band Middle Class Rut disappeared, it wasn't like the Beatles playing out their career on top of the Apple building. Rather it was a band that stopped making new music and had a member making solo music, all occurring so slowly, it was hard to notice. But the Sacramento institution is back with Gutters, a crowdfunded album that proves Middle Class Rut is not nearly as popular as they should be.
Middle Class Rut is a two-piece band made up of singer/guitarist Zack Lopez and singer/drummer Sean Stockham. They have a big sound that makes them sound like a full band, and Stockham's drumming is an important reason for that. While he's not busy, in a Rush/Neil Peart kind of way, he's active, using his drums to provide contrast within songs. "I'll Be at Home" has Stockham's driving drums providing the main riff of the song while Lopez's guitar handles more of the bottom and the rhythm. It's a typical Middle Class Rut move and one not many bands could pull off.
Gutters has lots of familiar moments like that. The band’s sound could broadly be classified as huge drums and passionate vocals. Lopez's voice has somehow gotten higher over time, and on Gutters he has positively Perry Farrell-esque moments. But other than that, it's a continuation of their previous work. They continue to work a wonderful sweet spot that folds in the intensity and distortion of punk, the groove of classic rock, and the anger of metal. It's all balanced perfectly, though, and never feels self-conscious or deliberate. Instead it feels like two artists with great taste listening to each other very closely.
Middle Class Rut initially packed things up in 2015 after their equipment was stolen before a gig. They went on hiatus, with Lopez crowd-funding a solo record and Stockham moving back to Idaho, both working day jobs. In late 2017 they decided to fund a new album via Kickstarter and just about a year later, Gutters was available to non-funders.
The band was briefly a five-piece, which was documented on the album Pick Up Your Head, and while that's a solid album, there's just something about the energy of Lopez and Stockham together. The propulsive drums steer their songs but Lopez's voice and guitar provide a beautiful, chaotic color. Lopez's work is reminiscent of the mess that engulfed Pig-Pen (of Peanuts), except that it's amazing rock and roll and not dirt (and also the Middle Class Rut rock cloud isn't sad—why wouldn't someone let that poor Pig-Pen shower? Who was OK with that?).
Middle Class Rut fans will love Gutters. If you're not familiar with them, the new record is a great place to jump in. It's not often you get to hear straight-up rock & roll that's visceral yet melodic and aggressive without being angry. Middle Class Rut have always been masters of balance and they maintain it on Gutters. It's an auspicious moment representing a new beginning.
Notable Tracks: “Crosshairs” | “I’ll Be at Home” | “No Sale”