Since the mainstream success of The White Stripes, any further rock duos will undoubtedly suffer from unfair comparisons. British duo Royal Blood, formed between drummer Ben Thatcher and vocalist/bassist Mike Kerr, are such a band, who happen to share a similar taste for blues influenced garage rock; a style splashed across their debut and eponymous album that was released today.
Unfortunately the similarities don’t stop there, as Kerr’s vocal style comes very close to Jack White’s at times, especially during the very danceable Loose Change, whose light verse drumming reminds of Meg White’s unique phrasing too. However, pushing the comparisons to one side, Kerr’s voice definitely has its own uniqueness. Figure It Out, a track that highlights just how effective a riff backed by solid 4/4 drumming can be, demonstrates fantastic technique and a timbre that will make many weak at the knees.
Remarkably, the album features no overdubs and a lot of the album’s parts were recorded in one take, giving the record a very organic feel. Naturally parts of the record end up feeling a little bit musically thin, such as the uneventful Blood Hands or the verses of Careless, which make use of a start-stop style bass line over the top of a constant drum beat; a technique that is overused across the album. Little Monster does, however, make good use of this verse style, interchanging vocals and a legato bass riff which drives the track forwards towards the powerful chorus. Although the ending vocal harmonies would have sounded great overdubbed on the final chorus, but Royal Blood’s strict recording policy prevents this and other such moments from happening.
This instrument restriction forces Kerr’s bass playing to be very versatile, which produces some surprising results with openers (and singles) Out of the Black and Come On Over, showcasing string bends and legato; a style of playing generally left to a lead guitarist. Ten Tonne Skeleton features equally creative playing with an energetic whammy pedal riff, which when combined with a great vocal melody produces perhaps the most successful track on the record. An accolade shared with the dark and brooding closer Better Strangers, where Kerr once again allows himself to take up lead guitar roles on a bass.
With only ten tracks, Royal Blood’s running length comes in at just over half-an-hour. This might seem short, but if the album was any longer the energy the band sustained across the record would start to become cumbersome. There are already moments when the band’s successful, yet very one dimensional sound begin to lose your attention, especially during the slower tempo sections of Blood Hand or towards the end of Careless. It is fortunate then that closer Better Strangers is different enough to end the album strongly and leave you reflecting on a generally positive musical experience.
With nearly half of the album previously released as singles, many fans who have already bought these (or the EP which featured a handful of these tracks) may question the point of buying the album. Fortunately the deeper cuts from Royal Blood offer just enough diversity to warrant the purchase of the complete album, and the novelty of a bass-driven rock band doesn’t wear off, even after repeat listens.
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