13 June 2014

Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie

These guys are in the middle of a mega push at the moment. I have not seen this sort of thing for a band in an awful long time, especially one that is an out and out rock band that is not of the indie ilk (i.e. - Kasbian/Oasis types).  'Great Western Valkyrie' is the fourth release from Long Beach, California residents Rival Sons.  They have been making ways around the world; they have been touring loads and receiving praise from many of rock's high dignitaries.  It seems like they have been on constant tours or recording, which has came at a cost.  This album is the first with a new bass player, so will the groove and unity still be there.  I still find it weird that I am reviewing a blues rock album from the Earache record label, once the home of extreme metal greats like Napalm Death; it is sort of like when Nickleback signed to Roadrunner records.  But this is not a criticism of the band or label, just not what I was expecting. Anyway, onto the album and enough of my autistic like/social media/music commentary nature....

Starting the album is "Electric Man" which is straight out of the 70's blues rock text book. Instant hook riff - check, keyboard/organs mixed in with the main riff to grab the soul - check, singer who invokes the vocal sounds of Robert Plant, Jim Morrison, et al - check.  It is a good song, well played and yet I find myself not in love with the song.  It is just a good song and not grabbing me as much as I would be hoping.  With that said, it has improved with further listens so all I can hope is that in a few months I will be head over heels with the track.  "Good Luck" (the first single that was released off the album) is a much more instant number, that punching chorus is a fantastic riff, the bass is pulsing and the solo just melts in the ears like ice on a summer's day. It has been blasting around ATTIWLTMOWOS towers for the past few days and it has matched the sun perfectly.  Next is "Secret" which has another dose of the classic rock vibe with that stomping riff that would be perfect along with the likes of The Allman Brothers and Lynard Skynyrd.  It is an instant classic for your old school rock fans and will be an anthem for the masses if you ever get to catch the band live. Again, I found this track improved with further spins and I have a feeling that this will be the theme for the record.

"Play The Fool" keeps up that old school vibe and you can hear the love that the band has for that era.  The Zeppelin worship here is very close to "Misty Mountain Hop" in terms of sound.  The lyrics are your usual boy meets girl, boy becomes player or something like that.  It is not till the change of pace around the half way mark that the song becomes interest with the guitar solo, but then it goes back to the tribute and my interest has been lost unfortunately.  Next is "Good Things" bring the rock vibe to the more blues end of the spectrum and it is the second single from the song (well, in the UK at least).  This is much better than "Play The Fool", it plays to the band's strength and does not make me think of other band's or tracks.  It just keeps it simple and that is the key with the more successful songs on this album.  "Open My Eyes" is back in the riff monster territory and sounds like a wounded album looking for the next kill.  Much like the best part of this album, it grows with repeat listening and does it in a much more subtle way than people will expect.  "Rich And The Poor" is another slow number, but not in the same style as "Good Things".  I find myself drifting a bit on this song to be honest, it is well played but my attention is not being held here.  I do reckon that the faithful will love this song though.

"Belle Starr" is a song at the wrong end of the album, but placement aside I find myself getting more into this number as it is a mash up of both the heavier and lighter side of this band.  It drifts between a giant riff and that more subtle and soulful side of the band.  Like a 70's Jekyll and Hyde, the song is a great example of what the band can be.  It may not be the best song on the album, but it is one of the most interesting ones for me.  "Where I've Been" is the six minute plus blues number that is designed for the heart to be pulled by those strings and make the healing of the soul start.  This is the version of the band I prefer to be honest, it is their strongest side and this is one of the best songs on the album; again it improves with each listen.  However, they end the track with the seven minute plus "Destination On Course", another soul searching number and as I stated above, this is the version of the band which I find the most interest.  Whilst it is the obvious album closer, I still prefer "Where I've Been".  But this is a great track and ends the album on a depressing high.

The best words to describe this album are - retro, grower, tribute. It is so 70's focused that depending on your leaning; you with either instantly love or hate it with no chance of the opinion being changed.  Now as a fan of 70's rock, I am also struggling to commit to it full; there is just something almost too good in places, almost too calculated in some of the songs. This is not saying it is a poor album, the songs are well played but I just cannot bring myself to say that it is the great second coming of rock that the magazines seem to suggest that it is.  It is a grower that much is true; when I stated earlier that songs improved that with further listens, I did mean it.  Yet there is a whiff of calculation here which was not on their first few records.  It is an enigma this record; it might become a classic in years to come.  For now, it just a decent record which is worth a listen; but overall it tries too hard to be an instant classic.

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track - Where I've Been

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Rival Sons website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for Deezer users

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