(Get Stoked! Records, CD, LP, cassette, digital download)
Built around brothers Bobby, Julian and Urian Hackney, Rough Francis have been holding fast since their inception in 2008, championing a positive and genuine approach to the fuzz-soaked punk rock that emerged from Detroit in the late 1960s and early ’70s. It is a sound that was pioneered by the Hackney brothers’ father and uncles’ recently rediscovered band, Death. From old-school hardcore kids to college partygoers to rock-and-roll historians, the music has proved to offer broad appeal. But Maximum Soul Power, the Burlington band’s sophomore full-length, is not a nostalgic play off the Detroit protopunk whence they trace their lineage. Rather, it’s a refreshing offering that complements the band’s protopunk DNA. On Maximum Soul Power, an album that charges with timeless ferocity, this notion is confirmed with confidence and vigor.
In the fitting introduction, “Ruffians,” drummer Urian Hackney introduces himself like a DEA agent first on the scene of a big bust, hoisting a battering ram. Bassist Steve Hazen Williams sneaks in through the side door with a rumbling bass tone recalling that of Ron Asheton of the Stooges. Guitarists Paul Comegno and Julian Hackney join forces and parachute onto the roof, creating a double wall of fuzzy intensity. Lead vocalist Bobby Hackney sends a message to the public suggesting, “We got to come together, let’s put our minds together, we got to learn from each other right now.” Lyrically and vocally, Bobby Hackney navigates his way through this record with meaningful passion and commitment.
“I-90 East” echoes the early sounds of the Motor City scene made popular by the likes of the Stooges and MC-5. Although similar in vibe to those bands, Rough Francis take a positive hardcore mindset and apply it to rock and roll.
“Staring Out the Window,” furnished with falsetto backing vocals, introduces a more emotional shade of Rough Francis. The ardently delivered tune is instantly memorable. The comedic “Not a Nice Guy” offers an important element of any good punk-rock album: humor. Much like Minor Threat’s “Good Guys (Don’t Wear White),” it is biting but lighthearted. The hard-hitting “Righteous” includes Julian Hackney gusting the hell out of the harmonica, in addition to guitar panning and lyrics that would make Lou Reed smile.
MSP closes with the extended six-minute “Comm To Space.” The song begins with a recording of a prank phone call made by the Hackney brothers’ late uncle, David Hackney, whose country-music side project, Rough Francis, gave the band its name. The song ventures off into a noisy guitar-soloing fever as the bass and drums stand strong.
Recorded at Burlington’s Signal Kitchen, the production of Maximum Soul Power aids the album’s ageless feel. Although peppered with a suitable looseness, the authenticity throughout this record brands it as one to remember.
Maximum Soul Power is available on CD, vinyl and a limited-edition cassette. It is available for download at roughfrancis.bandcamp.com.
Rough Francis play a free show at Signal Kitchen in Burlington this Wednesday, March 20.
(Full disclosure: Bobby Hackney is an employee of Seven Days.)