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Royal Bangs


[Modern Art Records; 2013]

By ; September 25, 2013 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Royal Bangs jumped onto my radar with their 2011 album, Flux Outside. That record was a cacophony of fuzz and electronic sounds that weaved across numerous genres of rock, from southern to indie to math rock to blues. It was frantic and confident — and a whole lot of fun.

The first spinning of the Knoxville foursome’s newest album, Brass, reveals a toned down Royal Bangs. The LP (produced by Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney) is their most accessible album yet, but that’s not to say that they’ve neutralized their character. Their signature distortion and off-kilter sounds are still present despite the band’s turn towards melody and hook-centric songwriting. In a sense Brass is closer to 2008s’s quirky rocker, We Breed Champions, than either of their last two albums.

“Better Run” serves as the introduction to the Bangs’ new sound and it’s a stealthy earworm. It might be a disappointment for those used to the band’s audio onslaught but the song is addictive. It’s easy to nod along with the drumbeat and chugging keyboard and, before you know it, the song is in your head for days.

“Window Loops Of America” is the album’s standout track. The sultry number is hypnotic with undulating background falsetto, loose drumming and delicate guitar. The moments of fuzz and computerized sounds are far subtler than the usual blitzkrieg of Royal Bangs and it’s a refreshing change. Those eager for a Royal Bangs song to slow dance to, take note, this might be your only chance.

Chris Rusk’s drum shuffle powers “Not-Imagined Nothingness,” the album’s closer. The song successfully fuses the band’s electronic past with a Black Keys vibe. “Orange Moon” most bares resemblance to Bangs of yore and “Octagon” is one of Ryan Schaefer’s finest vocal performances (has he ever sounded this suave?). “Laurel” is another fine number, while “Wallpaper” is a nifty and atmospheric slow burner.

On Brass Ryan Schaefer’s vocals are clearer than they’ve ever been and it’s a pleasant surprise. While the lyrics aren’t going to inspire anybody to get them tattooed, a clearer Schaefer is a step in the right direction.

Royal Bangs have never put out a top-to-bottom stellar record and Brass isn’t an exception. Most Royal Bangs records consist of a few downright addictive tracks mixed in with a grab bag of quality. Nothing on Brass is outright bad, however, a few tracks are forgettable. “Hope We Don’t Crash” and “CA Heart Attack” are solid tracks in their own right but don’t have enough unique qualities to make them stand out amongst the other numbers on Brass.

Brass signals a new direction for Royal Bangs and it’s a solid effort. Aside from a few inconsistencies, the change in sound is quite revitalizing and proves that there is more to Royal Bangs than a serious case of musical ADD.


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