Rival Sons – Rival Sons EP

Youthful classic rock straight from the past.

On first listen you’d be forgiven for thinking that this EP was recorded sometime in the mid 70’s by an Aerosmith tribute band who also play a bit of Led Zeppelin behind closed doors; this might prove to be both a help and hindrance. Hailing from Los Angeles, this EP is Rival Sons first since signing to Earache (although remains a self released effort) and follows a self released full length in 2009, ‘Before The Fire’.

Vocalist Jay Buchanan belts out his lyrics with the melody of Robert Plant, the tone of Steven Tyler and the swagger of David Coverdale. Fuzzed up bluesy rock riffs provide meaty instrumental hooks courtesy of guitarist Scott Holiday. Completed by Robin Everhart (bass) and Michael Miley (drums) the punchy and tight rhythm section holds it all together while a providing a good kicking in all the right places. There are some tasty old school rock ‘n’ roll solos adding the icing to this most classic of cakes along with some emotive mid-song breakdowns adding a nice contrast and keeping the listener intrigued.

‘Get What’s Coming’ kicks things off in true ‘Whole Lotta Love’ style with a big hooky call and respond riff/lyric combo and a psychedelic mid section. ‘Sacred Tongue’ slows the pace and introduces a chilling melody line not a million miles from ‘Dream On’ or ‘Seasons of Wither’. Closing track ‘Soul’ adds a big dose of Muddy Waters inspired roots blues. With these comparisons to long in the tooth classics could Rival Sons be referred to as a retro band? Talking to Classic Rock, vocalist Jay Buchanan disagrees;

…don’t call us a retro band, because that’s not the way we see ourselves. We’re just going further back for our influences than most bands.

Hmm… doesn’t this confirm they are a retro band by eschewing more recent influences?

Given the sound of Rival Sons it seems surprising that they are signed to Earache Records, home to some seriously heavy bands, but Jay Buchanan seems to enjoy this;

The thing is, being on this label is kinda cool. I like the fact that they’ve nothing else like this band on their books. We’re a one-off for them, and being labelmates with all those heavy bands like Municipal Waste… that’s great!

Are Earache hoping Rival Sons can crack the mainstream and bring some serious sales figures in the difficult economic times, or are they genuinely enthused about this young band and their potential for creating serious and thoughtful rock and roll? Only time will tell which path this band follow, and if it is the former, there could be a problem.

Rival Sons have chosen to make music in a genre where success requires more than just emulating some of the greats. A modern twist is required to take the classic rock blueprint and market it to the current generation of adrenaline crazed rock fans. Back when Aerosmith and Zeppelin were doing this their music was some of the fastest, heaviest and loudest that people had ever heard before. A rock band needs to inject something else to keep people interested and listening. What this extra something might be is undefined and depends very much on the personalities within a band and how they wish to project these to an audience. Rival Sons don’t seem to have added this touch to the EP and as a result the songs don’t stick with the listener for too long. You might well be happy to walk across a festival site in the middle of the day to catch them in the tent, but you won’t be singing their praises to all your mates down the pub a week after first hearing them.

Rival Sons are a young band at the beginning of their careers, so as long as they receive the support their talent deserves they may find that spark and take-off. If they don’t they could face becoming a “cool support band” that will be enjoyed but not really loved. They have completed the recording process for a new album, and it should be available through Earache in May, then we’ll see whether they really are worthy of following in the footsteps of Aerosmith and Zeppelin.

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