So this is the record I’ve been waiting for all year. Royal Blood’s eponymous debut was my favourite album of 2014/2015 and was one of the few ‘new’ releases I went out and bought straight away on vinyl – usually I have to be extensively convinced I’m going to play something often enough to go and do that. But I loved that collection of songs pretty much immediately. The whole set was ferocious, I couldn’t quite work out how they managed to make so much noise and generate so much melody with only a set of drums, a bass guitar and a vocal. There were shades of early 90’s alternative rock in there, a bit of Nirvana maybe, a bit of Black Rebel Motorcyle Club (although BRMC without the brakes on, ie. less santised and throttled back than I sometimes find their music to be), a bit of twisted blues, and the occasional nod back to a more classic rock sound with a few cheeky AC/DC moments. Anyway, I loved it. This review isn’t about that album though so I’d probably best move on.
I had high expectations for the follow up. Possibly too high. Ridiculously high. It was almost certainly never going to live up to them. And of course, it hasn’t, quite. It’s come pretty close though. And to be fair, it’s still early days: the album was released yesterday and I’ve listened to it three times so far. It’s almost certainly no coincidence that two of the three songs that immediately leap out at me are the ones that they had already made available: ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’. That suggests to me that this is all going to be a bit of a grower.
Ok, so what does it sound like? Well, it sounds like Royal Blood. The first song pretty much picks up where the last album left off. No real surprises here: ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ is a solid album track in a similar vein to ‘Come on Over’ or ‘Figure it Out’. Same with track two, the aforementioned ‘Lights Out’ which chugs along nicely with a few nice falsetto backing vocals, then breaks out regularly into a full throated chorus. ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ is the first time I can hear some slightly different influences starting to creep in. It reminds me a little bit of Muse this one. Some really good guitar riffs on it though, well, bass guitar riffs played as lead guitar in the way that they tend to do it. ‘Where Are You Now?’ also sounds like Muse, a bit like the band decided to cover ‘Knights of Cydonia’ but in the style of ‘Little Monster’.
Elsewhere I can hear things that somehow bring Depeche Mode to mind. On ‘Look Like You Know’, for example, the rhythm and slightly expanded instrumentation make me think of some of the songs from Ultra. ‘Don’t Tell’ similarly so. They both have that slightly seedy lurid/goth sound to them that I usually associate most with Dave Gahan and co. That’s a bit of a surprise, but you know, it actually works really well. It adds a dimension to their sound that simultaneously sounds new and like it was always there just straining to burst out.
‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ really is great. To me it sounds like a scuzzy post-industrial Led Zeppelin. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. The song that I immediately like the best overall though is ‘She’s Creeping’. It’s proper sleazy, and slinky, and loungey. If the video for this isn’t shot in a strip joint, I’ll eat my hat. It inhabits the same sort of territory as ‘Make it Wit Chu’ by Queens of the Stone Age. I like that kind of creepy and slightly menacing vibe, I don’t know why, it probably says a lot about me.
Overall, I think this is a really decent album. It’s no radical departure from what they did last time, true, but there is a slight expansion to their sound and it’s a perfectly fine collection of songs. I guess that’s always the problem with these things though isn’t it? You put something out that’s incredibly well conceived and executed; then what do you do next? Exactly the same thing again? Everyone claims you’ve gone stale. Something completely different? “Gah, you’ve ruined it all, we hate you”. It seems to me that second albums involve treading a very fine line, and Royal Blood have done that more than well enough I think. It’s Saturday tomorrow: I’m not in work and the shops are open. Time for some new vinyl I think.
Follow Royal Blood:
Official Site: http://royalbloodband.com/