The self-titled album from two-piece band Royal Blood is gritty to say the least. I would caution any pro-tools advocate from listening to this album. It’s that mischievous, good looking girl standing at the jukebox about to pick her favorite song while simultaneously starring down her prey that night. The British duo, comprised of bass guitarist/vocalist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher, does not sound like a two-piece at all.
There were times while I was listening to this record and thought it was a full band. Royal Blood recorded this album under strict guidelines – free from the computer polish that we are all accustomed to – and often in one take. Within this debut record, you get a good summary of rock that we have heard before while putting a stamp on an up-and-coming pure garage rock band that will grow as soon as they leave their structure.
Not to say that their strict endeavor is without a head-nod return. Royal Blood is not quite bluesy as The Black Keys or as artsy as The White Stripes, but more akin to Queens of the Stone Age. Mike Kerr’s vocal style is identical to Josh Homme, at times feeling like a well-timed cover. “Out of the Black”, the first single, is the band’s “we have arrived” statement. A song of dueling bass guitar and drums, it comes complete with a soaring chorus that features the band’s “big” sound.
“You Can Be So Cruel” shows off that Queens of the Stone Age car smell both in lyric structure (I’m outside your window/I’m outside your door/You’ve never been this lonely/and I’ve never been this down before) and guitar riff composition. Matter of fact, most of the lyrical content is reminiscent of the lusty undertones of previous Queens albums. Where that band went into a different territory, Royal Blood has come to pick up the slack. “Come On Over” features a relentless, circular-like riff and percussion that borders the line between being catchy enough to be played on alternative rock stations and bringing together rock fans who have turned away from the mainstream.
What the album does well is that it makes every aspect of the fans feel inclusive while keeping a veil on underground. Closing track “Better Strangers” sums up Royal Blood completely, just what the final track of an album should do. Royal Blood hearkens back to the days of the “jam band” and this is shown with the break in the song with a brief guitar solo from Kerr that Thatcher plays off of very well. The album is fairly consistent with its gritty style. I feel that as they explore their sound more with future projects, they’ll be able to dive into unfamiliar territory to throw their fans for a loop.
If you want a pure rock record, Royal Blood is for you. Many rock artists are going back to that unpolished sound which is welcome, and this album holds to that to a tee. The music peaked my interest and had me stomping my feet, but I also want more. I want Royal Blood to explore further from the ranges of their influences because I believe in their potential. Hats off – this is a good start. Keep working through, as your music would imply.