Nashville-based modern rock quartet The Rugs sound bred on the more tolerable elements of early '90s commercial rock radio. The huge production on Suez Canal
recalls now-faded heroes of the last decade, such as Live and, to a lesser extent, Collective Soul. In fact, it isn't too far off to say that the Rugs, with their regular use of a reverby guitar for ambient effects, aren't so dissimilar to Flickerstick, the darlings of VH-1's riveting Bands on the Run
reality show of a couple years ago.
Indeed, like Flickerstick, the Rugs deal in anthemic guitar-fueled rockers ("Breakdown," "You Tell Me"), angst-colored vocals and a sort of rock-by-numbers aesthetic that is at turns exciting and dull. Rugs singer Matt Maher exorcises his various demons with a voice resembling Ed Kowalcyzk's (Live) or, occasionally, a macho and robust Michel Stipe. The songwriting is solid, and if the Rugs weren't so middle-of-the-road in terms of their production choices they could have coerced some really memorable moments on Suez Canal. Ballad "Erase Me", though simple, shines among the rest of the material, as does album closer "A-Z". Both build on a quiet vocal and acoustic guitar strums, but the latter number stands out most because of its expertly crafted dynamic build, which recalls vintage Pearl Jam. Indeed, the song is strong enough to replace PJ's "Black" as the beer-cup raising, frat-house basement anthem. Say what you will about it, but straight-ahead modern rock may not get much better than this.