Friday, 5 October 2012

Review: Rival Sons - Head Down

 I have a lot of love for Rival Sons, how could you not? With last year's Pressure & Time being a dazzling array of big rock and roll hooks done in a way to evoke memories of the '70's, how could you not feel the love for a band like that? Probably by having a more modern taste that doesn't make you sound like a whinging teenager wishing he lived in the '70's. Anyway, after last year's spectacular release which made it onto the now inexperienced looking Ramblings of a Rock Fan top 50 albums of 2011 list, the band have wasted no time in constructing a follow up that's just as killer, in the form of their third full length release, Head Down.

 While other bands would gladly carry the blues rock title and instead use it the guise to release some bone headed heavy songs, Rival Sons are very much the real deal, playing with the kind of subtly and grace that you can notice in some of the finest soul and blues musicians in history, while being able to rock as hard as any big names in hard rock without losing any sense of that grace. It sounds like some kind of undo-able task, but, I believe I've already established that this band is brilliant.

 This songwriting concept can be noticed across the album as lead single Keep On Swinging opens the album with a selection of blues riffs from Scott Holiday and frontman Jay Buchanan with the positive sound of Led Zeppelin pumped out in a less bombastic characteristic, going for a much greater sense of class in favour, which is summed up perfectly by the ever soulful howling of Buchanan. Even with Robert Everhart's bassline sounding oddly reminiscent of AC/DC's Back in Black, there's an undying sophistication upheld perfectly.

 More than obtaining a sense of class and sophistication, in everything that Rival Sons do on this album, they always just manage to sound cool. Like a constant stream of coolness bursts out of every note the band plays. From the smooth indie melodies and massive vocal hooks of Wild Animal, to the irresistible grooves of All the Way, a song for Buchanan to display the true extent of his showman-like charisma and tell a tale of his life through song in a way that will make all listeners jealous and loving towards him at the same time.

 A lot can be said of Buchanan's vocal performance, yet it's best to hear it at it's best when it comes out during the more delicate moments of the album. The performance of Jordan and True are an outlet for so much emotion, that his perfect smoothness and tone of voice that says a thousand words alone are a perfect way to point at the man being this generation's Robert Plant.

 Beyond this, the band's musical performance is stunning as ever and shows much influence from all kinds of established rock bands that came before them. With it's intros clattering drum solo from Mike Miley, You Want To sounds like the band trying to make a song that continues on from the end of The Who's My Generation, while the guitar work once more from Buchanan is second to none. And once again, the amount of emotion poured out across his five minute solo on Manifest Destiny Pt. 1 is completely captivating and keeps you in the constant flow of guitar lick after lick. That's before the song is followed by Pt. 2 of the song, sounding like a classic blues rendition of the Beastie Boys' Sabotage, a slightly different take on the concept of the band replicating the sound of already established bands.

 Ultimately it's with the shimmering production that keeps each track sounding as crisp and fresh as the album goes along that really allows the band to create a spacious atmosphere that reflects a sense of absolute grandeur. It means the album can always seem like a touching experience as you listen to it again and again. Wouldn't you know, that's how all the critics would describe the best albums of all time?
 In the space of a few months, it's wonderful to see a band that has previously shown brilliance come back with something possibly better than the first experience of listening to them for the first time. And this is what Rival Sons have effortlessly done with Head Down. Subtle, grand and still rocking, this is an album that you can be constantly attached to with smoothness that has come from an influence by some of the biggest names in rock and roll and the talent of a band just as good a many of these names. And with the mighty frontman presence of Jay Buchanan, surely a future rock and roll icon, Rival Sons are likely to get some major recognition with this album now. And with recognition being gained for a modern band with the influence from classic rock and blues musicians, as all bands should really have, what is there not to like?

Rival Sons' Head Down is out now via Earache.

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