Rival Sons - 'Self Titled' EP (Earache Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Russ P   
Sunday, 06 March 2011 05:00

rivalsonsep176pxMid-February saw Rival Sons make their UK debut at Camden Barfly. In the grand scheme of things they were one act amongst over 100 other bands that were scheduled to play as part of HMV's Next Big Thing. Whilst this is laudable on HMV's part it does make the mind boggle - just how many Next Big Things can the public digest? If things weren't tough enough I was actually down in London on the very night that Rival Sons debuted. And I was witness to what turned out to be an unsurpassable performance by the phenomenal Vintage Trouble. Rival Sons had to follow that performance. I didn't envy them. Or fancy their chances. But do you know what? They came on, unperturbed, did their thing and their thing was gooooood.


And it's gooooood here in the studio too. Very good. If I'd heard this six track EP before that gig in Camden my heart would have been racing in anticipation rather than flat lining. They have an incredible vibe that has its roots in early classic rock. Which means big riffs, solid grooves and smoldering vocals. Their big influences - that I'm almost loath to mention because they will hound the band for years to come - are Led Zeppelin and The Doors. Even before listening to the band just looking at photos of the band one can pick up on the Jim Morrison vibrations channeled by tousled-haired singer Jay Buchanan. And after seeing Miley on drums one can't help but to equate his gregarious nature with that of Keith Moon although Miley's drumming lies firmly in the John Bonham camp. But all this is to the band's advantage. They already look like classy rock stars. A look and feel, which permeates everything from their image to their music.


On this EP the band sound brilliant - they're relaxed and they're tight. The recording sounds like it's been captured for the most part live and it has a warmth that can only mean one thing - that they've gone analogue using good old fashioned magnetic tape and glowing valves - either that or they've convincingly and completely fooled me with some newfangled modern-retro gadgetry. Either way it's working for them.


In another musical world 'Torture' could be described as a dance anthem - at least an anthem that could make the dead dance. It's a libidinous track with an underlying pulse that has much in common with Queen's 'Fat Bottomed Girls' and INXS's 'New Sensation'. It's deliciously decadent.


It's hard to put your finger on exactly which Zeppelin track 'Radio' is reminiscent of - 'Good Times Bad Times' maybe - I think the point is that it's not really any of them rather Miley manages to bottle the spirit and lets it all out on this one. Like 'Get What's Coming' there is a fair share of trippy psyche out jamming on these tracks - and I'm not talking elongated 10 minute guitar solos - it's all in the feel and the vibe - because amazingly these tracks are of pop-song length and still manage to transport the listener through that whole experience in lightening quick time - no mean feat.


All bands need to slow it down now and again to show some versatility - some light and shade. Usually it's the power ballad or the acoustic number, which often merely sounds like an unplugged version of one of the band's usual numbers. Whilst 'Sacred Tongue' is indeed an acoustic number it really does show a different dynamic to the band. Jay's melodies are soft, sublime and soaring - something that just couldn't be expressed over a hard rocking riff. The instrumentation is beautiful too - a song to listen to over and over again.


The band start to stretch their legs a little bit with 'Sleepwalker' and 'Soul' which head on up past the 3-minute barrier. The clue is in the title with final number 'Soul'. It's easy to imagine Janis Joplin belting out this slow bluesy number. It gives Jay an opportunity to show his soulful side with a gospel backing and a little help from his friends.


Perhaps not since Wolfmother's debut have my ears been treated to such a fresh and exciting retro experience. And my ears can't wait for more.