Royal Blood

Royal Blood

Written by: TL on 01/09/2014 15:06:32

It feels like there's a lame joke to be made about economy and downsizing when observing the growing success of two-piece bands over the past couple of years, but instead of stretching to formulate one such, let me instead get right to introducing you to this year's perhaps most relevant offering in the category. Royal Blood is a two-piece from Brigthon, UK whose self-titled debut LP came out last week and has already made it to the top of England's album chart, becoming the fastest selling British rock debut in three years. Quite a feat for a band formed only last year, and more so perhaps when you consider that the constellation is not your typical drummer/guitarist setup.

Instead of playing guitar, frontman Michael Kerr swears by the electric bass instead, playing it with both booming hard rock tones and a dusty touch that's reminiscent of Queens Of The Stone Age's characteristic nuances. The searing sneers he produces when forcing the issue vocally, sounds more like Jack White though, with the same hint of the echo you'd expect from something sung through a megaphone, and with the rhytmical backbone primarily being a steady mid-tempo, we find ourselves pretty squarely in a groovy, choppy blues-rock territory, alongside both White's American "Stripes" and other UK-based contemporaries like Band Of Skulls and The Kills.

It goes without saying then, yet we might as well do so anyway, that over the course of a ten track album - even one as tightly cut as this one - diversity of expression is inevitably going to become a weakness with such a minimalist setup, and the reason Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher have garnered recognition anyway, is that they consistently manage to create movements where Kerr's bass/vocal interplay sounds both lively and pretty badass. Listen to the whole record in one go, and things might blend together, but individually these songs have the necessary dynamics to get hips swaying and neighbours wincing as they hear you testing your homegrown hard-rock falsetto through the walls. Particularly the latter half of the album features choruses on the likes of "Little Monster", "Loose Change" and "Careless" that will soon sound welcoming and engaging on repeat playthroughs, while my own favourite number "Figure It Out" shows the bass ideas that have perhaps the most swagger overall.

To me the drawbacks to "Royal Blood" as an album are the most apparent when I remember that Band Of Skulls also put out a record this year, and that there's a high degree of similarity in the energy each band tries to conjure up. Band Of Skulls however, features an extra instrument and an extra voice plus two extra records' worth of experience, and if you listen to them right after Royal Blood, this is felt in terms of richness of texture and variety over the length of a whole album. To their credit, Royal Blood have a rawness and grit to their bassy approach that arguably puts an extra sense of danger in their corner, and do mind that you don't get me wrong: Both these bands are definitely worth listening to in their own right. As an album though "Royal Blood" just plays a bit too much by similar recipes, meaning that while the songs are pretty strong separately, you might still have some trouble remembering one from the other in a while, when you've put some time between yourself and the healthy sense of satisfaction you'll likely feel during your first handful of rounds with Kerr and Thatcher.

Download: Figure It Out, Little Monster, Loose Change
For The Fans Of: The White Stripes, Band Of Skulls, The Kills, Drenge

Release date 25.08.2014
Black Mammoth Records

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