In a live setting, former Morning 40 Federation member Ryan Scully’s new band Rough Seven is a ball-peen hammer, raging blows from ragged craftsmen shaking the studs in your walls, but on their debut album Give Up Your Dreams, we get to feel what’s behind the swing of their blunt instrument. Scully and crew (guitar extremist and avant-garde catalyst Rob Cambre, merry prankster keyboardist Ratty Scurvics, fellow Morning 40 refugee Michael Andrepont on drums, C.J. Floyd on bass and Meschiya Lake and Erika Lewis on backup vocals) play in the space located somewhere between Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds at their most Americana and the Rolling Stones circa Beggars Banquet. The background singers move up front to give the numbers a gospel sheen, but the songs lope like ragged horses. On the opening title number, Scully rasps over the Band-like boogie, “A sledgehammer can break a heart.”
With its hoedown patina and bar band swing, “Sugardaddy” sounds like the throwdown Wilco was too uptight to put on A.M. Majestic ballads “Meltdown” and “St. Anthony’s Fire” achieve a windswept prairie spaciousness, full of long sunsets and resigned “hallelujahs” at the end. The real crowd-pleasers here, though, are the soul-encrusted, jagged stomps. Scurvics practically disembowels his piano in “Love is the Main Thing” as a part of a greater mating ritual. “Helicopchop” is cheeky Katrina-funk, drinking away the hours waiting for rescue. “Golden Parachute” is the R&B love child of a wrecking ball and all your roommate’s drugs. Great fun, but the album might veer toward post-Jon Spencer kitsch without the mellower moments balancing them out. The real beauty in Give Up Your Dreams lays in the cathartic panoramas, the valleys and peaks, the redline and the fatline that one can only explore with impunity in rock ’n’ roll.