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Royal Blood - Royal Blood - LP -

Price per Unit (stuk): €14.95

In the year 2014, the only thing more tired and predictable than mainstream rock is the perpetual reports of its demise. But then, the gatekeepers of tradition need us to believe rock is dying in order to keep selling us a new resurrection narrative, like any consumer product in the mature phase of its life cycle and in need of a good marketing hook. But the audience for rock music never disappeared, it merely pluralized. Classic-rock radio may still play Black Sabbath alongside the Eagles and the Police, but the modern-day descendants of those bands are now funneled through discrete radio formats that serve different demographics. When you consider the combined festival-filling fanbases for metal, indie, and new country (and whatever derisive invented subgenre you’d apply to bands like Magic!), there’s still a healthy demand for songs played on plugged-in guitars and backed by bass, drums, and (budget permitting) pyro. Rock may no longer be the center of popular culture, but it still occupies vast amounts of space around it. When purists lament its supposed death, what they’re really lamenting is not so much the disappearance of guitar-strapping bands as a dearth of ones we can all believe in.

Still, this circumstance has never stopped the British music press from making a weekly sport of anointing new saviors for the country to rally around. And with Royal Blood, they've hit the jackpot: the Brighton bass-and-drums duo have swiftly become the most universally deified emergent UK rock band since the Arctic Monkeys first thawed out a decade ago. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Royal Blood share management with the Monkeys, whose drummer Matt Helders famously endorsed the then-unknown band through a t-shirt shout-out at Glastonbury last year.) Royal Blood’s self-titled album debuted at No. 1 in the UK last month and was nominated for the Mercury Prize shortly thereafter; now that they’re already duking it out on the top of the charts with the likes of Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran a mere year after their formation, Royal Blood are, for many young Britons, not just The Only Band That Matters, but The Only Band, period.

It’s not as if Royal Blood have been actively advertising their messianic qualities; if anything, they’ve been quick to defuse any such hyperbole. And yet, a little self-aggrandizing swagger would go a long way in making Royal Blood seem like they have any aspirations beyond just cranking out proficient assembly-line riffage as if they’re playing a live-action reenactment of Rock Band. Though Royal Blood confine themselves to a limited instrumental palette, the issue here isn’t so much a uniformity of sound: frontman Mike Kerr feeds his brawny basslines through a NASA-worthy dashboard of effects pedals that can make it sound alternately like he’s shredding on an SG or coaxing alien frequencies out of a Korg. And no doubt, Kerr and stickman Ben Thatcher can lock into a crushing, contorted groove with a telepathic sense of connectivity (like with the epileptic lurch of lead single “Out of the Black”), as if drop-and-dragging their favorite bits from the Led Zeppelin, Jack White, and Queens of the Stone Age discographies into a GarageBand file to build the ultimate indestructible riff. It’s the pro-forma songwriting that transpires between those brontosaurus blasts that ultimately proves problematic. By using their muscular might to prop up otherwise featherweight tunes, Royal Blood have effectively built themselves a castle and furnished it with IKEA.

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