Given that I normally like to live with an album, eat sleep and drink an album, take a warm soak and cleansing album massage, and really get to know what makes an album tick before sitting down with a view to reviewing said album, what I’m doing right now is somewhere on the line between controversial and downright reckless.
I’m about two-thirds of the way through my first listen of the self-titled debut album by Royal Blood, and yet here I am, typing while they riff on. I’ve already given it a score. It’s a score I could have given five minutes ago, ten minutes ago*. I already feel like I know this album, and unless the final track, Better Strangers, is the Richard Hawley crooner on acoustic plus lush string section that it could be from the title alone**, there will be no surprises.
Normally, this would be a problem for me, but Royal Blood doesn’t necessarily suffer because of its narrow sonic template. If anything, the opposite is true: with barely any sounds on the album not coming from Ben Thatcher’s drums or Mike Kerr’s bass and vocals, the sound is impressive, and impressively large, and even though each track seems to have caught an echo of the last, the conveyor belt of impressive one, two and three-bar riffs keep the album from drifting away into humdrum. Little Monster and Figure it Out, both already released as singles, are a narrow cut above the rest, among which there’s little to choose or differentiate.
What Royal Blood does, it does well, and it’s possible that this is as good as three and four-minute riffing gets from this sort of setup. Sometimes you’ll forget that there are only two guys making this room-filling sound, and that neither of them is playing lead guitar: there are weedier-sounding bands out there with at least as many drummers as Royal Blood have band members.
But. But, but but…
If, as some are suggesting, it hails a new dawn for rock albums (because we’ve never, ever, heard that one before, you know) I just hope against hope that its followers are not as wedded to the form: why set yourself up in a way that seems designed to answer the question “what’s your USP?”, only to then put together an album of ten tracks built on such familiar foundations?
So here’s looking forward to Royal Blood’s “difficult” second album, featuring instrumental tracks, ten-minute epics, and sub two-minute thrashes. It could be magnificent…
- Who cares about scores anyway?
** It’s not