The Rifles are now 3 albums into a career that has seen them with some high profile contacts – Paul Weller and Oasis are said to be fans and the band have been semi-regular guests on Sky TV’s 'lad-sport programme', Soccer AM. Despite this and a decent live reputation for rowdy gigs that sees them regularly selling out large-ish venues in the UK and Europe, those three albums have failed to dent the UK’s Top 20.
Will their 4th album 'None The Wiser' be the one to convert their promise into cold hard sales? Let’s take a look……..
The original line-up has reformed for this album (half the band departed before the recording of their previous album “Freedom Run”).
It all seems promising with the opener – “Minute Mile”. The Rifles sound is definitely mod influenced so you can understand why Messrs Weller and Gallagher are converts.
'Heebie Jeebies' is up next and bounds along in almost a punk fashion replete with a swear word and weighing in at 2 minutes exactly, it’s an instantly memorable tune and should go down well in a live situation.
This is followed by 'Go Lucky' which is another upbeat rocker featuring what is obviously a Rifles trademark, the recognisable single note hummable guitar motif (other notable proponents of this are Big Country – think of an indie version of 'In A Big Country' – bet you’re humming that guitar line now!).
'All I Need' slows the pace a touch as it opens with acoustic guitar before the whole band joins in – there’s even something that sounds like a harmonium in there….. It’s a welcome change and shows the band are more than just a Britpop jangly electric guitar band.
Next up is first single 'You Win Some' (released 20th January). Opening with a nice arpeggio and some Hammond organ (if you’ve read any of my previous reviews you’ll know I’m a sucker for a decent arpeggio). It almost sounds a little sparse compared to the previous songs but it builds nicely adding bass & some rhythm guitar in the second verse before reaching a crescendo during the second chorus and then dropping down to finish. I’m not sure it’s the most representative song on the album but it is a good choice.
It’s followed by 'Catch Her In The Rye' which is reminiscent of The Kaiser Chiefs – in a good way – with its jagged, almost stilted rhythm in the verse and there’s a nice change of pace/direction halfway through.
The band claim to be influenced by "Bob Dylan & Talking Heads, some Clash and as always - the Beatles.” The Bob Dylan influence is most apparent during 'The Hardest Place To Find Me'. Again, it’s no bad thing especially as they add a dash of The Stone Roses to the mix, definitely one of the better songs on the album.
'Shoot From The Lip' is perhaps the only song that smacks of filler although it’s not terrible, it isn’t as memorable as the other songs on offer here.
'Electric Eccentric' features a nice double-time chorus replete with piano arpeggio (see, there I go again) and smudge of harmonica. There’s also a nice shuffling drum pattern during the second verse.
The album closes with 'Under and Over'. The press release says it’s sure to be a winner at live shows. Opening with stomping drums/percussion and shout-a-long lyrics until the band kick in. The song drops down again to the drum/gang vocal approach before the band come back, picking up the pace. The band has the confidence to let everything drop out to just vocals before it’s back to the chorus via a clever key change. You know I have to agree with the PR guys here, they’re bang on – it’s a stomper and one I would love to see live myself.
As you can tell, I’ve really enjoyed this album, the songs are punchy and it’s almost 'old school' weighing in at around the 3 minute mark, which always garners favour with my short attention span. However, there is a slight criticism but this isn’t aimed solely at The Rifles – more at the whole recording industry. What the hell is with these stupid hidden tracks?? If a song is worth releasing, then it’s worth putting the sodding title on the sleeve. The Rifles have a hidden track and it isn’t bad but what’s it called? (I’m guessing it might be Top of the World). In this, the day and age of the iPod, I can think of nothing more irritating than having a 'song' that is split into two parts separated by a sizeable gap. Grrr…….
Rant over – and to summarise, this is great indie pop, full of memorable tunes that, with the right spot at Glastonbury/Reading or the like could turn this band from a taste for other musicians, to the wider record buying public’s darlings. A possible contender for “The Ubiquitous Band of 2014” if this album is given the right promotion and the band gets the right breaks.
★★★½ (…and I’ve knocked off half a star for having a hidden track).
Download - The Hardest Place To Find Me | Minute Mile | Catch Her in the Rye | Under and Over