In 2011 Rival Sons released their sophomore effort,
Pressure & Time and it felt like a Rock n’ Roll revelation. The music
seemed new and familiar at the same time. It was an invigorating
slap of thunderous rock!
Hot on the heels of Pressure & Time, (less than 14 months),
and despite non-stop touring, Rival Sons has just released their third
effort, Head Down.
In the midst of a never ending European tour, vocalist
Jay Buchanan, guitarist Scott Holiday, drummer Michael Miley and
bass player Robin Everhart managed to book studio time in Nashville,
Tennessee. Following the formula they perfected on Pressure &
Time, the band hunkered down with producer Dave Cobb. They
wrote and recorded Head Down in a couple of weeks!
The album kicks off with a bang. “Keep On Swinging”
is a combustible mix of sludge-y, primordial percussion, blistering
guitar riffs and stentorian vocals. The lyrics are almost a mantra,
promoting personal perseverance. A philosophy that has served
the band well.
It’s no exaggeration to say Rival Sons is the most exciting
band in pop music today. Three songs here exemplify the audacity
of that boast.
“You Want To” cloaks a tale of domestic discord in a
kinetic psychedelic mash up. Jay Buchanan’s vocal gymnastics are
positively thrilling, pivoting from a whisper to a scream. Drummer
Michael Miley pounds out a tribal tattoo in triple time as Buchanan
Cajoles “I’m so sorry, this time I mean it/ Let me in, I know you want to.”
Suddenly the whole enterprise turns on a dime, powering down to a
jazzy and extemporaneous call and response between Buchanan’s
soulful pleas and Scott Holiday’s fleet fret work.
“Jordan” is the complete antithesis to the controlled chaos
of “You Want To.” An aching meditation on loss, the lyrics offer a
tender farewell to a loved one. ”Now the rest of my life without you,
right now it’s hard to conceive/ You said don’t cry for me now you’ve
got to remember, there’s no death for those who believe.”
The mood is spiritual and contemplative, with hushed instrumentation
highlighted by Holiday’s mournful bottle neck solo.
“All The Way” shifts gears yet again. Everhart and Miley
anchor the bottom with funky bass lines and a pummeling back beat.
Buchanan’s demeanor is playful and swaggering as he reels out a frisky,
albeit apocryphal account of his youthful indiscretions. Best of all,
Scott Holiday unspools a series of riffs fat with sustain and reverb.
Two songs serve as the centerpiece to Head Down.
“Manifest Destiny Pt. 1” and “Manifest Destiny Pt. 2.” Both songs
detail an epic battle. “Pt 1” clocks in at over eight minutes, allowing
the band to stretch out. A bludgeoning beat propels the dirge-like
melody. Here Buchanan’s shivery falsetto crests over Holiday’s
spiraling fills.
“Pt 2” is a stomping war cry. Holiday’s riffs detonate like
cluster bombs over a walloping beat. Buchanan does his best to
navigate through the wreckage.
Both “Wild Animal” and “Until The Sun Comes” are impossibly
catchy, the former prowls with the agility of a Panther. The latter weds
slashing power chords to a crackling beat. Buchanan’s licentious talk of
dancing is a handy euphemism for some horizontal exercise!
Other stand out tracks on Head Down include the Delta
blues of “Run From Revelation” and the sly psychedelia of “Three
Fingers.” Buchanan’s vocals on “The Heist” are a pure homage to
British blues belter Eric Burdon. The melody feels like a sand-blasted
The album closes with “True,” an ethereal Pas de Deux
between vocals and acoustic guitar. Buchanan’s voice trills and soars
over the melody. It’s a performance reminiscent of the late great
Tim Buckley.
This album has definitely upped the ante for Rival Sons.
While Pressure & Time was sharp and concise, Head Down
is sprawling and ambitious. It’s hard to believe that it has been less
than three years since the band released their self-titled debut.
Rival Sons is poised to take over the world!
Beg, borrow or steal to get Head Down. And when
you play it, crank it to 11!

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