Album Review: Rival Sons Pressure & Time

By Joseph Giannone 3 years ago
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Rival Son’s latest album Pressure & Time is another entry in the “revivalist” craze, but any band delving into that territory has the chance of losing what makes them special in the first place. Most groups lose that “special” attribute to their music when they bound themselves to a specific moment in time. That specific moment is the late 1960s and 1970s hard rock. Rival Sons' music places them firmly in the genre that Led Zeppelin, Free, The Who and Black Sabbath made famous, but their output never quite matches the lofty heights set forth by their predecessors. Their music is entertaining because of it, but to simply rehash what others made famous so many years ago is not worthy of your time.

The chord progressions mimic every strikingly aesthetic aspect of groups like The Black Keys and even The White Strips. It’s clear that the Sons are talented musicians. Though as catchy and entertaining as their guitar riffs may be, Rival Sons put no effort into creating a unique style of their own. This is done by throwing aside any attempt at virtuosity, for a popular sound that factors into the rushed compositions. Two tracks that immediately validate this observation are “All Over the Road” and “Only One.” The obvious melodies of “Over the Road” are ripped straight out of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, while “Only One” taps the hard rock tunes of Bad Company.

Mixing hard rock and blues has been a notable mashing of genres for many years and lots of bands have attempted to forge a lasting spot among the select few who create their own visions. Rival Sons could have been a group to adjust evolution into their ageing blues rock, but it’s not just their sound that adheres to the past. One significant detail that’s bothered me the most is how familiar Jay Buchanan’s voice is. Could he be a Robert Plant impersonator? Or does it remind you of Andrew Stockdale’s vocal range in Wolfmother? Though I could imagine being harassed for this sentiment, it makes no sense to me that Rival Son’s blues style and Buchanan’s vocals match so closely to their small range of influences.

Even though I have my complaints about this record, it was still enjoyable to listen to. Song’s like the seminal “Pressure & Time” sound like Black Sabbath and Wolfmother had a baby though the Sons raised it to be their own. It’s a truly remarkable song that I can see being played on radio stations worldwide. Illustrating where the band is capable of progressing, “Gypsy Heart” uses a cosmic chord progression and an even groovier mid-song break down that brings a jolt of energy to the listener. “Gypsy” could possibly be the best song on Pressure, but nothing procures a greater sense of this band’s untapped ability than the epic finale, “Face of Light.” The lauded track is a folk tinged tune that actually utilizes the Zeppelin-esque “shire” sound to their advantage. Reminding me of the greatest moments in “Ramble On,” “Face of Light” is the shinning climax on this record, but it really strikes a nerve in me.

If only Rival Sons spent more time creating fantastic songs like those three, instead of concerning themselves with easily digestible music, then maybe this album would have been distinguished. The harmonies, drums, pianos and bass all play a pertinent part in the casual grace of these songs, but with those wonderful attributes I am still reminded of slacking creativity and vague individualism. With the way the music industry is right now, to really stand out, you must not make a ten song record with no real uniqueness, because 90% of bands produce generic songs that hold no semblance of anything worthwhile. Rival Sons might be entertaining, but it is nothing groundbreaking.

I give Pressure & Time by Rival Sons a 3.5 out of 5.
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