Music business and lockdown—has the industry gone digital?
What rock music once meant is in many ways a shadow of its former self. Honest and shameless guitar music, was increasingly displaced as the most important global youth culture and lost in meaninglessness of today's pop understanding. The zeitgeist has a completely different name: Hip-Hop. Without a doubt, rap music as a genre is unmatched in its opulence and even after years of maximalism, and is the great cultural influence of the 21st century.
The much-cited "death of the guitar" is a real consensus in this context today. Streaming figures, charts, critics and headlines prove dead of a dying species. What guitar rock needs as a form of expression today is not a nostalgic soul recited over and over again, but innovation and relevance: An inspiring and genuine musical energy between saturated party culture and progressive-provocative rock'n'roll.
Fascinatingly clear, a band from Brighton has played up this dynamic without dismissing itself in a moment yesterday. Royal Blood, a duo in the face of their own everyday realism of British suburban kids, decided back in 2013 to conjure up their own musical violence out of nowhere. With a fun self-image and palpable euphoria, Michael Kerr and Ben Thatcher convinced rocket-like, with their mixture of experimental-rapid rock with pop attitude, and presented in recent years, not least rare moment of advanced guitar music.
Radical and simple, they brilliantly played a sound that was at the same time familiar, yet refreshing, as usually bigger bands do. The latter is undoubtedly due to the way Michael Kerr treats his beat-setting bass as a swinging electric guitar and tops it off with his not flawless vocals. The really clear and focused drumming of Ben Thatcher brings Kerr's raunchy class into rhythmic symbiosis and drives his melodic intensity through the full length of their pertinent songs. Amazingly, now, their wild ride through the world of rock'n'roll, which has been going on for several years, revels especially in their new uber-hit "Boilermakers" and makes this almost stereotypical experience the central theme of their new album.
If you look at today's rock music, you can see that there is still a lot being released worldwide. Due to its more and more missing presence, it is possibly only a little more difficult to find it. Much of it tries to evoke the old spirit of past eras without allowing new influences. It's about breaking genre boundaries and escaping from what already exists. Just the past of the genre showed it in the 60s and 70s enough that a fusion of styles made the genre what it was in its heyday and still is today. Pop as a whole always went through the most diverse phases of its greatest musical influences. For example, back then it was jazz and today it is rap music that changed. Hip-hop and pop have taken the place of the most influential musical genres and lowered the status of rock. Whether this decline remains temporary depends on how new generations treat the genre itself. The future of rock music must be renegotiated in creative ways. Royal Blood seems to have taken this path.
All songs of the ninth album "Typhoons" audible up to here have followed this credo. On no sound track the duo loses its image to itself. That the singles are Royal Blood songs is unmistakable. The central spirit of the band that haunts each song is driven through each song by powerful drumming and accurately picked up by Kerr`s distorted bass and somberly connoted vocals. And in doing so, it seems that the band has pretty well understood what disco is. Because a quite present stylistic feature of the new record seems to be influences of electronic music. Some edges of the songs are strongly reminiscent of the hysterical-electronic music of Justice or Daft Punk. And then came "Boilermakers."
The as here previously titled "Überhit", lives out after the previously light disco moments in a completely different direction. What happens here is probably not least because this song comes from the pen of the king of Queens of the Stone Age. No one less than Joshua Homme was significantly involved in "Boilermakers", which is not least clearly responsible for the sound image. The content of the song also makes it clear, the momentum of the central theme, the new album. Royal Blood experienced and did what many rock stars just do and make the abstinence to alcohol and drugs responsible for their own development on their new album. The last years passed as if in intoxication and how that must feel, makes "Boilermaker" experienceable. The symbiosis of Stoner and Brit Rock with desert ambience succeeds. Such a driving honest and authentic rock song should finally be the proof that Royal Blood are one of the few bands that bring together the spirit of past days, the courage to change and somehow sound new without being alien. Their brilliant success speaks for it.
Audibly, the band floats so consistently longing probably their first highlight of their still young discography. Because for the genre they set an unprecedented exclamation mark with their music. Honest rock'n'roll that transcends borders and can somehow be pop, reviving the old spirit without getting lost in nostalgia, is one of these new creative and courageous ways to deal with the genre and treat the rock of today in a new way.
Originally published on April 27, 2021, updated on January 7, 2022