by Andrew Garrison
The story of Rough Francis actually starts way back in the ‘70s in Detroit with a band by the name of Death. Death was a punk band before punk was a thing, which came right out of Motown. The band Death and Rough Francis share the same genetics, in the musical and literal sense. The history and progression of Death is covered much more extensively and frankly far better than I could here in a documentary titled, A Band Called Death. Which, if you haven’t watched it yet, do it now. It is on Netflix and is absolutely outstanding. Seriously, stop reading and come back in 90 minutes, I won’t be mad.
Rough Francis started as more or less a tribute to their father’s and uncle’s band, Death. Their first release, Maximum Soul Power is a triumphant display of just plain and simple rock and roll. It should be listened to often and loud. The aptly named album brings the soul, and power, perhaps to the maximum.
Leading off with “Ruffians” we start to get that little hint of the soul vibe that we are jolted out of with the hardcore punk sound of wailing guitars and huge drum bit and wraps things up with an outstanding guitar bit at the end. “I-90 East” has just rad guitars, plunging the track every which way imaginable. The drums are so incredibly fast paced and the vocals have a classic punk rock sound to them. “Black & Red” starts a bit lighter with the funk and soul undertones, which are broken up with more of the rock and roll vocals. “Black & Red” dials the tempo about halfway through, making for a really outstanding effect when they build it back up. “Staring out the Window” is again a bit slower with screeching guitars to create that really great rock atmosphere. We are also given some more excellent drums towards the back end. One of my favorite parts about this album is how seamless and effortless and perfect the transition from “Staring out the Window” to “Not a Nice Guy”. After I heard it at first I actually went back to listen to the end of “Window” to “Not a Nice Guy”. And then I did the same thing a few more times. Seriously, it’s that good. “Not a Nice Guy” does a really good job of reeling itself in by slowing down only rumble its way back up, building energy the whole way through really really good guitars and adding the drums at just the right time. “Home Invasion” starts with spitting out the line, “Don’t cut me off!” in the punkest way I can conceive. This same vocal swagger is repeated a few times throughout the song and each time it packs quite the punch. Again, they give us the great effect of slowing down, building with control, only to unleash all of the rock that they have right at our earholes. “Righteous” has a downright sick little cymbal intro and is some sort of messy/purest merging of the soul and rock vibes throughout the whole album. “Righteous” also blesses us with two, well, righteous, guitar solos. Our last track, “Comm to Space” (which I take to be short for communication) starts off with the prank call from Mars, that you should be familiar with if you listened to me and watched the documentary. On top of this call are futuristic production elements that really make the whole space notion present. Here again we get the pent up energy with a slow, controlled building towards then end of the song, highlighted by just awesome guitars.
Maximum Soul Power has some absolutely outstanding musicianship all throughout the entire album. Rough Francis changes tempos and reels themselves in when needed to provide the maximum effect, truly highlighting their ability. Often times with albums like this, the band can tend to get carried away and the sound comes off as a little busy. This is not the case here. Rough Francis gives us a great rock album, pure and simple. So crank the dial up to eleven and enjoy.