Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

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I absolutely adored the Brighton duo’s debut back in 2014 – and I still consider it one of the most important rock albums of the decade. It was a fresh and unique take on classic hard rock – inspired partially by Jack White’s minimalistic approach, but bringing something new to the table. It also proved that guitars aren’t really necessary to play rock n’ roll – all it takes it is a bass guitar run by some cleverly put together effects. That album was short, energetic, fresh and also catchy as hell.

So, Royal Blood proved to be innovative musicians and skilled songwriters. On their sophomore record they take the safe route and give us a slightly more groovy set of yet another ten songs. Of course it doesn’t mean the band is afraid to try new things – first album was quite short, so the follow-up should sound just as refreshing, right? Yeah, it should. But sadly it doesn’t. Personally I think the songwriting is to blame – even the singles (Lights Out, I Only Lie When I Love You), arguably the catchiest songs here are no match for the effortless coolness of most of the tracks from the debut. Sure, Hook Line & Sinker is a banger, but it’s probably the only song that sticks with you after the first listen.

Despite all its flaws: playing it safe, slightly (but just slightly) more polished sound and a decrease in songwriting quality this is still a very solid album. The fans should be satisfied, as they finally have more than 30 minutes of the band’s material to listen to, rock purists will be glad that a young band sounds like that and casual listeners get something that (still) is quite fresh. The point is, Royal Blood should really consider reinventing themselves on album No.3, and prove that they aren’t a one-trick pony.

7/10

Arcade Fire – Everything Now

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Even before the offical release I had an opinion – this is the worst record Arcade Fire ever made. The rather unconvincing, disco-inspired singles failed to connect with me on any level. Even the album cover looks like it’s more suited for Imagine Dragons or shit like that.

After a few listens I see I was a bit too harsh. Still, it’s the worst thing they ever recorded, nowhere near The Suburbs or Reflektor, not to mention the earliest albums. Everything Now is a huge dissappointment, destroying hopes of fans around the world. It fails to be another game-changing, stellar indie record… but it does another thing, something I would never expect from Win Butler and company. It’s an excellent guilty pleasure album. The ever-present synths, disco inspirations and catchy melodies provide an enjoyable but forgettable record.

The opening, title track was growing on me for a while. Yeah, it’s kinda pretensious, sounds a bit like ABBA, but it certainly isn’t a bad track. Great sing-a-long value and the overall joyous feel of the track make it a nice opener. Signs of Life is my favourite song out here – moody, mysterious, with a great bassline – it would be a perfect fit on Reflektor. Creature Comfort deals with some really serious issues, so I’m not sure this style and arrangement really fit here – it makes the song sound a bit like an unintended parody.

The next song, Peter Pan, is a strong contender for the title of the worst Arcade Fire song, so let’s just stop here. Chemistry echoes a bit of Bowie, but it feels a little cheesy. The two-part Infinite Content is a highlight, one song performed in two totally different styles. There’s a bit of filler after that, and the two closing tracks sound like they were meant to be ambitious and epic but kinda lack that special something (maybe they’ll grow on me though).

Overall, it’s not as bad as many reviewers would have you believe. But it’s not good either. Nice album for the summer, but sadly nothing more – you’d expect much more from a band of that caliber. Bonus points for self-awareness and irony in the lyrics and promotional materials – who knows, maybe it was meant as a parody?

6/10