Words About Music
Royal Blood “Royal Blood”
Oh, garage rock. When will you learn? When will you learn that, as a genre, everything that could possibly be done with you has been done. We’ve had our White Stripes and our Strokes. Both bands released some great albums but have since either fizzled out or broken up. Hell, at least The Strokes tried to branch out and include some other instrumentation. Ultimately, without some killer songwriting or memorable riffs, garage rock is a dead genre. The Black Keys should have figured this out a long time ago, but, well, here we are. Anyway, the year is 2014 and since garage rock is still a thing, let’s talk about Royal Blood. Royal Blood is a garage rock/noise rock duo using the simple formula of drums, bass guitar, and vocals. Sound familiar? This British duo has gotten quite a bit of attention and love for their cheap brand of knockoff music. And I know, modern garage rock in itself is sort of a knockoff of all the originators. But I don’t think anyone is doing blatant plagiarism quite like Royal Blood.
Want to run a checklist of typical garage rock tropes? Alright: emphasis on distortion and riffs, quiet-loud dynamics, very slight musical shifts, repetitive lyrics, emphasis on a chorus, groovy drum work. I mean, seriously, “Royal Blood” plays like a beginners’ guide to the genre itself. There’s virtually no attempt to deviate themselves from any previous attempts at the genre. Even Band of Skulls did a better job. And before you say “but… the bass sounds like a guitar!,” allow me to direct you to the greatly superior Canadian duo Death From Above 1979 that Royal Blood seems to sound quite a bit like. I went into this album expecting something run-of-the-mill at worst (the first track is at least decent) but run-of-the-mill would be putting it lightly. This album is for music listeners so casual that their only experience with garage rock is The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” If that’s you, then this record might blow your mind.
I want to say that this record is at least decent, because these guys appear to be gifted musicians and at least go so far as to make the drumming slightly more complex than that of Meg White. But when I get to the halfway point and hear lead singer Mike Kerr sing “there’s blood on my hands,” I almost feel offended. Is that a tribute to Death From Above 1979, or are these guys so incapable of maintaining any modicum of originality that they straight-up steal lyrics from the one band I can safely say they’re trying to sound exactly like?
This album is going to sell very well. Royal Blood will skyrocket to stardom, at least in their native England (where they’ve already opened for Arctic Monkeys) and they’ll probably land an opening slot on a Black Keys or Jack White tour or something. People will praise them before forgetting about them by the time spring 2015 rolls around. But if you as a reader and a music listener have any capacity to notice a one-trick pony when you see one, you’ll pay this band no mind. This way, by the time their sophomore slump comes around in early 2016, we’ll have all forgotten we ever even let this band sell a record. Or who knows? Maybe they’ll take their emulation for DFA1979 to a new level by breaking up after this one album before reuniting a few years later?
SCORE – 0.5
FAVORITE TRACKS – Out of the Black (if I had a pick one)