Royal Blood

How Did We Get So Dark?

Written by: TL on 23/07/2017 11:44:20

Royal Blood. Two words, two English guys, two albums. Two colours on the covers of said albums. Two instruments (ok, three if you count Mike Kerr's vocals). Two, two, two. As a concept, the rock duo isn't all that original (see: White Stripes, Black Keys, Japandroids, The Kills etc. etc.) yet that didn't stop Kerr, on the bass, and Ben Thatcher, on the drums, from blowing up and topping charts in the UK with their self-titled 2014 debut, marking the arrival of this year's follow-up, "How Did We Get So Dark?", as one to precede a number of prominent festival sets on some rather large stages.

Two instruments, though, are not a lot. Regardless of the fact that Kerr adds in a neat rock'n'roll purr for a voice or that he reportedly has two strings on his bass substituted with guitar strings, in order to put out both the low grooves and the searing licks that the duo's music consists of. Royal Blood still can't really work with layers within their self-imposed boundaries, which means that them making an album must be sort of a challenge: How far can we keep the listener occupied on the strength of our dynamics and songwriting?

When the two are already as famous as they are, it's because the answer was "surprisingly far" on their debut album, with several of their songs exuding both coolness and catchiness while managing to provide hooks that stood just enough apart to string you along for another track and then another etc. Even so, the concerns were already there back then, and so it's not unsurprising when the answer on this new album is "not a whole lot further".

Quite simply, it takes three or four tracks into "How Did We Get So Dark" before you just start to feel like you've heard the full range of what the band has to offer, and thus have no surprises ahead of you. Little to nothing has changed in the soundscape, and it's either a case of more of the same not feeling fresh anymore or of the hooks just not cutting it. "Lights Out" is fairly memorable, but a clear case of "the verse is the chorus", and "Hole In Your Heart" stirs attention for a bit with an opening signature that sounds like an organ, but generally the cut and dry, straight-to-the-point approach of Royal Blood primarily just feels rehashed and exhausted this time around.

"How Did We Get So Dark?" feels most of all like a bit of a cautionary tale then. Perhaps they should have titled it "Beware the dangers of minimalism" or "When Rock'n'roll becomes just a little bit too pure". Boring as it is when odds are on point and predictable things actually play out, Royal Blood's two smoking pistols already sound very outgunned in the arms race of the music market of 2017.


Download: Lights Out, Hole In Your Heart
For The Fans Of: Queens Of The Stone Age, The Kills, The White Stripes

Release date 16.06.2017
Warner Music UK

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