14 Apr 2017

Lights Out: Why Royal Blood's Return Proves They Might Have Even Less Imagination Than We Thought

Last year, I think the nastiest band I got my reviewer claws on was sneering Denace The Menace punk duo Slaves, a pair that well and truly proved that in a post-White Stripes, post-DFA1979, post-Japandroids, post-uhhh [are Fuzz a duo? They sound it on their debut] age, there really is seemingly nowhere you can go as a two-piece rock band. Every avenue for this one dimensional setup has been walked down, all the water has gone from well. All the chickens have gone home to roost and the metaphors are all mixed up.

But it seems there's no shortage of bands that are big, and a two piece. Royal Blood first emerged in 2014, and got frankly too big. People would say to me, "Cal, come on, you've got to appreciate the fact they're making THAT sound with just a BASS GUITAR and a DRUMMER!" But in actuality, the music of Royal Blood is as dull, as monotone, and as unexciting as the sentence "all the melodies are played on the bass guitar" implies. This band got way too big in 2014, with the help of some very high up friends (Matt Helders wore a "Royal Blood" t-shirt at Glastonbury 2013, before they'd even put a song out), and a musical climate that cried out for a decent rock group so much that it just swiped for the first major label skronkbots that appeared. 

Maybe their subheadline slot at Reading & Leeds could have optimistically been seen as the band's peak in terms of fucking-being-everywhere. They vanished a bit, didn't they? I thought it was; I've not had to listen to Out the Black and pretend it really #rawks for at least two years. But lo and behold, the start of this year saw the slimier music industry folk whispering loudly about the return of Royal Blood. Surely not? There can't be a demand for more of this, right? Alas, someone with less taste and a bigger salary than you or I, high up the Warner Brothers ladder thinks its due some units were shifted with some no thrills rock and/or roll. Excavated just in time for Easter are a resurrected Royal Blood, and their new song Lights Out is everything you expected, and then quite a bit less.

Lights Out is art, but art as if it were created by a group of people with no imagination. The facelessness of their self-titled debut is still here, and the band have clearly made no such attempts to develop their sound, or their persona, or add anything distinguishing to their music whatsoever. As in 2014, as now; Royal Blood have the combined character of a League 2 player on FIFA, seven years into career mode, and a Twitter troll with an egg for a display photo. This is boring music, by boring people, and that comes across in every second of Lights Out

A singular, thick rock riff on a bass guitar is the kind of thing that might sound good for a 10 second burst of a Nirvana song, but that's what the sound of this band is entirely built around. For realsies. Lights Out, goes DERDERDERDER-DERDERDERDER-DERNNNN, unlike similarly imaginative Out Of The Black (which goes DERDERDERDER-DER-DER, DERDERDERDER-DER-DER) and Come On Over (which goes DADA-DER-DADA-DER). With this kind of endless imagination, it's easy to see where three years of work went; they've been honing their craft, of course, and clearly have lots of great, fresh ideas to bring back to the table. Can anyone remember what Dave Grohl - nicest guy in rock! - said 3 years ago it was this. In an interview Dave Grohl - nicest guy in rock! - said "Royal Blood were going to save rock 'n' roll". Yep. I think that tells you everything you need to know about  Royal Blood. And everything you need to know about Dave Grohl - nicest guy in rock! 

I'm not going to repeat the lyrics here, but if I told you Royal Blood had written a song called Lights Out you could probably guess what they are - have a read yourself, create a bingo system based on outmoded rock music stereotypes, and get your peepers down for a full house. Yep, the chorus involves leather clad frontman Mike Kerr, a man who is so indistinct I've had to look his name up three times writing this article, yelling "so turn the lights out!" at the end of almost every line. Yep, it's about a woman with a "pretty face" that just "brings me down". Yep, "round" is rhymed with "ground". Anyone got a house yet?

Of course the rockist brigade that dismiss anything not made on a guitar will be all over this; Royal Blood are a guitar band that'll probably get a second #1 album. But surely, even if you believe 'music made on computers isn't real' (which I swear I read Mike Kerr say in an interview, but can't find it. Maybe I dreamt it), there must be better stuff out there for you, right? The rock press' frantic struggle to put Royal Blood on a pedestal does more to harm the "guitar music's not dead" (obviously it fucking isn't) argument than it does to bolster it. Bands like Royal Blood give particularly stupid members of the public cause to say "all modern music is shit"; even less than 3 years on, their debut sounds dated and tired, and Lights Out is a rehash that somehow manages to seem more dated and more tired. 

Normally I'd post the video to a song I'd written a piece on here, but seriously, don't bother. Listen to something like Goat Girl or Husky Loops, Shame or Yak, or anyone from an endless pool of bands if you wanna feel optimism for guitar music after you too have been victim of the realisation that Royal Blood being everywhere is a phenomena that's going to happen again... 

(Words: Cal Cashin)