Like most teenagers, I used to love punk music. And then I grew up. I can’t say I totally grew out of it, but something about the constant, driving rhythms and repetitive four-chord songs just doesn’t do it for me anymore. But every now and again, I get the craving for some punk, but mature punk with a melodic edge. Enter Rancho Cucamonga’s Rufio, a band who is not emo, but is not quite punk either – they are right in between. With intricate guitars, sad melodies and thunderous punk drums, Rufio have developed a finely tuned balance between emo and punk.
Rufio’s latest full-length release, 1985, catches you off guard with its opener “Countdown.” The track begins with a harmonious riff which is then followed by pumping cookie-cutter punk drumming. And so the album unfolds in this manner, switching back and forth between punk and emo. Take for instance “We Exist,” a would-be typical punk song, if not for the fact that it actually has melody. Then there is “Follow Me,” a would-be typical emo-song, if not for the choppy punk guitars laced throughout the track. Yet, what truly sets Rufio apart from punk bands is their ultra-emo, pained-as-sin lyrics: “Make up your mind / We’re hurting inside / Every single breath I take is screaming out your name.” Now if that’s not emo-tastic, I don’t know what is.
Where bands like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New tend more towards screamo, Rufio veer more in the direction of pop-punk, yet they are not Blink 182 or Simple Plan. With 1985, Rufio have managed to create their own style of music, by pulling from punk, pop and emo. Yet, unlike the countless other bands who have done this, Rufio keeps each style distinct. Their songs follow a pattern of starting off emo, having a punk middle, a pop break and an emo end. This choppy style is repeated on nearly every track on 1985, causing the songs to all sound similar and the listener to grow bored.
1985 is an album of balance, but sometimes balance isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes it’s better to mix things up instead of keeping them separated and neatly organized. Hopefully, on their next album, Rufio will realize this.