Brakes have come a long way since their gloriously ramshackled 2005 debut Give Blood. It lurched from one genre to the next with many songs coming in at well under the 2 minute mark. It was like a sonic sketch pad. Throughout the following Beatific Visions they added more meat to these bones and now they are certainly a mightier beast. The obvious change is that only 3 of the songs here are under 2 minutes and none beat the 7 second record held by the debut. But thankfully this change is merely cosmetic and though each song is longer the sentiment is still pretty much the same.
Thematically this album is as disparate as ever with each song appearing to have been born out of absolute circumstance. Delirious recording hours seems to have provided the setting for the crazy Don't Take Me To Space (Man) while Do You Feel The Same was recorded at the time of the financial crash when everyone was predicting the end of capitalism. So I guess what I'm saying is that much of this album is made up of ideas that seemed good at the time, and on the whole they were and still are.
Musically things have leveled out slightly. We don't get the stark contrast of bluegrass country jutting up against hard as nails punk ferocity as much as we did on the debut. It's more like country-rock dovetailing into punk-rock. With ex Delgado Paul Savage behind the production desk Touchdown is a more consistent rock record. The songs are perfectly formed ideas with everything you'd want from a rock song. Opener Two Shocks is the perfect example. It's slow to build and then with expert timing unveils itself to you with profound muscle unlike anything delivered by this band before. It's an opener that makes you step back and admire proudly the grownup standing in front of you. The same can be said for Crush On You and Oh! Forever. Looking at these three you just want to say patronizingly, "Haven't you guys grown, I've known you since you were this long."
There are still ample indications that this band hasn't totally matured, the best being Red Rag. The joint shortest at 1.33 minutes this song has all the snarl of previous 30 second sucker punches but borrows much from its older brothers that surround it here and plays out as a hard piece of feral rock. It's probably the best moment on the record and one that makes me glance back to the good ol' days of fun loving punk sketch books. Touchdown still possesses all these eccentricities but with all its mightier, stronger and better songs I can't help feeling the loss of something special. It's ever so slightly duller than before, but at the same time way better. Go figure.
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This album sounds like a great deal of work has gone into it; the songs are interesting, the instruments are all played nice and tight, and the production sounds really full and clear, but I have to confess I'm struggling with it because of the vocals. The Rank Deluxe offer up a confident and thoughtfully crafted album full of indie rock which should, by rights, gain them a lot of attention and maybe some airplay. Once again, it's the sound of early 80's post-punk which informs the band's sound, and in the Rank Deluxe's case the influence seems to be both The Ruts and The Beat (bands with a tad more intelligence and creativity than many of their counterparts). The guitar playing stands out - a tight and schooled American approach to indie rock along the lines of Albert Hammond Jr, and the rhythm section is totally on the case with snappy disco rhythms and reggae influenced basslines. So where does it all go wrong? For me, the stumbling block is the vocals - singers Richard Buchanan and Lewis Dyer have made the decision to sing in a resolutely cockney accent, which is no doubt their own speaking voices. They both have good powerful voices, excellent range and accuracy, but the upfront nature of the glottal-stops, flattened vowels and dropped H's detract in no small way from the band's music.
I'm sure it's an approach the band must be happy with - an unambiguous declaration that The Rank Deluxe are a London band - with colours nailed securely to the mast. This may win them some fans because singing in your own accent is somehow more "real" but could limit their appeal to audiences north of Watford, or on the other side of the Atlantic. Lyrically solid, musically adventurous and sonically charged, the album has few low-spots and works better on tracks like Innocence where the cockneyisms are less emphatic and more relaxed. Basically, this is what Hard-Fi would sound like if they were any good - and one or two listens will make your mind up. I won't be listening to it much, but I have found myself humming the melody of Doll Queue all week, so they must be doing something right.Read more 2.5 star reviews
This was an assured, powerful and entertaining performance from London four-piece The Rifles. Lesser debutants may have melted under the lights, playing in front of a sold-out Astoria. These boys simply rose to the challenge.
When a band has only one album behind them there is room for few surprises during a live show, but surprises were not what the audience wanted. The english storytelling style of Joel Stokers lyrics made each track an anthem as if the audience had been listening for years. With thousands of voices ringing out to each chorus there was a sense of homecoming in the atmosphere.
Blasting off with single She’s Got Standards, One Night Stand and Repeated Offender the pace was set and it was clear we weren’t going to be hanging around all night. With a presence on stage mixing arrogance and accomplishment the band looked and sounded as if they had experience well beyond their years. Its difficult to imagine the bands by which The Rifles are clearly influenced being so assured at the same stage in their careers.
Slowing down for She’s The Only One and the rolling drums of Fat Cat we stepped through most of the album. Strong b-side NLL broke things up and a new track suggested there is likely to be some musical evolution when a second album comes along.
An encore including Narrow Minded Social Club and Local Boy sent the audience home wanting more but feeling they’d seen something special. Drummer Grant Marsh’s grandparents made it to the show; lets hope they enjoyed it as much as everyone else did.