‘ROYAL BLOOD ARE HERE TO SAVE ROCK MUSIC IN 2014!’ extol increasingly feverish, desperate publications, while Gaza burns, Nato chows down in a militarized zone of Cardiff, and the music industry collapses from within. But are they the saviours like The Vaccines were the saviours? Or how about Kasabian; are they like them? The Datsuns? Or maybe Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong? You know the SAVIOURS?! And just who does Rock need saving from? Is it in mortal peril? Or quite happily chewing over its ever more reheated remains?
From the sound of heavy-handed Brighton-based drums and bass duo Royal Blood, it needs saving from posh pub bands, pumped up on over production and big bluesy riffs. No amount of which can disguise the fact that these songs are under written, lightweight and utterly mundane. Being a two-piece rock band isn’t new and certainly isn’t original and this the kind of hoary old nonsense that we thought we’d seen the back of in the late 1980s. How come this particular pub band has been plucked from obscurity and given a platform?
“I made this huge bass sound and we kind of laughed at first and thought, ‘What if we could do this? What if we could be a two-piece and sound like a four-piece and be a rock band?’” singer/bassist Mike Kerr said of the band’s early beginnings. “I kinda feel like rock’s really the only thing I’ve done,” Kerr added. “Every time I’ve gone to write a song, it’s just always come out that way.” And boy, does it sound like it.
Royal Blood have one gear and it’s straight ahead, moronic, riff-rock with all the subtlety of Alex Salmond. Take recent single ‘Figure It Out’: for all its ‘pile driving’ drumming, bass berating and guitar posturing, it’s the sound of the White Stripes in a stupor. Whilst babbling vocals claim the affirmation of success, no spit-and-shine production job can mask the lack of individuality and subtlety that makes Royal Blood one trick ponies at best. Opener ‘Come on Over’ might be emblazoned with an explicit swearing warning but it’s about as threatening and offensive as Peppa Pig: an unremarkable chugger laced with the agnostic lyrics ‘there’s no God and I don’t really care’ that threatens menace but falls flat on its face. That is the choking sound of a neutered Nirvana tribute act. ‘Little Monster’ is quite frankly Muse by numbers; supine Matt Bellamy-esque verses giving way to Thatcher’s tumbling drums and strangled riffs, it’s pedestrian at best and a parody at worst. The plodding kick drum sound of ‘Loose Change’ is the work of a band trying desperately to be metal with all the relevant clichés present and correct – the AC/DC riff, the nursery rhyme vocals – but it’s all rather lacking in the required ampage, guts and well experience to truly get heads moshing. Only the mild fury of the Kyuss-aping kiss off ‘Out of the Black’ offers any kind of hope that there’s more to Royal Blood than this.
Retromania speaks of culture’s fascination with the past, an inability to evolve, to move forward. Royal Blood are yet another example of a group thrust into the mainstream that lack the ability to see beyond their record collections (containing Status Quo, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin et al, no doubt). A band who claim that they were born to rock and have a good time and create simple meat-and-potato songs that they hope will make them pop. But each one comes off as contrived and cynical, like all the best parts of the Queens of the Stone Age or Death from Above with all the edges smoothed off and the bollocks removed and the dirt scrubbed from under their finger nails they actually sound like two young blokes from any pub on any Friday evening hammering out pub rock bollocks with a big production budget.
They may have acted all bashful when this new record ‘stormed’ to number one in the album charts last week, but the truth is that privileged duo Royal Blood are an act carefully crafted and designed by a target market (with the helping hand of their label) for mass consumption and hyped up way beyond their station, while hundreds of artists who have eminently more worth scrabble around for their next meal, their next lift to a gig, their next recording session. That’s what’s so heartbreaking about the success of Royal Blood and their kind, they simply aren’t worthy of any of this. Utterly moribund. Royally shite.
Royal Blood’s eponymous début album was released on 25th August 2014 through Warner Bros Records