Ah rock, how I have missed you. Sure, you have had many iterations during my lifetime: grunge, rap-rock, nu metal, whatever it is Nickelback does, to name a few. But rock in its purest form, in my opinion, came in the 1970s. The accoutrements that came with it – bell bottoms, long hair, non-ironic mustaches, AM radio, Ford Pintos, Jimmy Carter – need not come along, but pure unadulterated rock? Oh, hell yes.
The Los Angeles based quartet, Rival Sons, are hell-bent on bringing back the “Me” Decade – musically at least. Their latest album released by Earache Records, Pressure & Time, is an opiate for those who were aching for a great throwback to 1970s rock & roll. Dirty distortion; precise drumming; belted out, soulful lyrics; a sitar “just because we can;” and just the right amount of blues injected make up this thirty-one minute powerhouse.
That only scratches the surface of what the album brings. Jay Buchanan delivers punching lyrics: on key, on time, and with a swagger that has been missing for years. It has been a long time since a vocalist has delivered songs with rowdiness, which is evidenced in anthems like “Burn Down Los Angeles.” Buchanan proclaims he “came for revenge for [his] broken dreams/ didn’t come to wait tables or park limousines.” For all of his vocal strutting, there is humility and humor as well. In “Get Mine,” he’s “got a pistol on [his] hip and a long list of names” but that pistol is “full of water because [he] can’t afford the lead.”
Scott Holiday works the tempo and tenor of each song well with his distorted out guitar playing. He cranks out blues riff after blues riff and breaks into the occasional guitar solo. A great, fuzzy solo shines on “Gypsy Heart” andHolidayis well accompanied by the rhythm section of bassist Robin Everhart and drummer Mike Miley. Both are well-mixed, so you can hear all of Miley’s psychedelic fills on “White Noise,” and Everhart’s deep bass thumping on “Gypsy Heart.”
Like all great rock albums, there are a couple of ballads to change up the pace. “Only One” is an open letter to the rock spouse, and “Face of Light” closes out Pressure & Time and allows the listener time to regroup after having their face rocked off.
If I had one track to sell strangers on Rival Sons’ talent, it would be the title track: “Pressure and Time.” It has a great riff and closes like a good rock song should, with authority. Buchanan assertively delivers his lyrics without dominating the song. Holiday delivers a filthy, blues-rock solo. Miley works the ride cymbal like a pro and keeps the song tight. Everhart keeps time on the riff and adds bubbly fills.
I am not ready to proclaim a triumphant return to 70s era rock just yet, but Rival Sons keep me hopeful that there are bands out there trying to do it right. I hope the rest of the world sees these four gentlemen for what they are and give their music a chance. We need more of their “turn back the calendar” rock. We are better off with it than without.