Reverend & The Makers: The Death Of A King
LP / CD / DL
8 / 10
The post-britpop clutch of indie bands saw a great number of promising acts who didn’t quite know how to keep things fresh; either becoming repetitive within the space of a few albums or making complete missteps towards reinvention. As a band remembered best for their one massive single (you know the one…), Reverend & The Makers’ intent to plough ambitious new furrows could’ve left them in the latter category long ago, were they not so adept at mastering new sounds – a skill clearly exhibited on ‘The Death of a King’, their sixth album.
From the rootsy stomp of opener Miss Haversham, it’s clear that this LP is not going to be easily defined in genre terms – ‘the Rev’ Jon McClure’s swagger of old is still detectable behind the acoustic guitars. Second track Auld Reekie Blues goes from post-Oasis indie ballad to a shimmering slice of jangly guitar pop, sounding far more current than most bands at the Makers’ stage could dream of.
Onto Bang Saray, an instrumental infused with a variety of Eastern influences, jungle drums and violins joined midway through by heavy bass and a beat that could’ve been taken from a Mark Ronson composition circa Record Collection. Boomerang follows with a hypnotically repetitive electropop groove, flowing into the garage riffery of Too Tough To Die – the kind of style casual listeners might have expected from Rev, but still sounding as fresh and confident as the name suggests.
The album’s influences become very clear at times – the minute-long piano ditty Carlene sounds very much like White Album-era McCartney, as McClure laments the titular one who got away over a deceptively upbeat tune. ‘Time Machine’’s synthy funk has a trendy vibe usually reserved for the likes of Dutch Uncles and raises the LP’s already high danceability quota through the roof, sounding contemporary enough to render its title wholly ironic.
Sprawling closer Black Flowers begins with keyboard player (and The Rev’s wife) Laura McClure taking vocals for a hypnotic, grooving three minutes. The track seems to come to a natural conclusion, before flourishing into a psychedelic, Sgt. Pepperesque instrumental. A wistful, folky hidden track replete with droning sitars and super-tight vocal harmonies solidifies the Beatles comparison with a clear resemblance to Because – but with enough of an original touch to work in its own right. Then, as if simply to change sonic course one more time, the closing seconds of the track spiral into an atmospheric, white-noise drone to play the album out.
When not experimenting with jazz and world music, The Death of a King defaults to an eclectic, groovy post-indie mix of folk rock and modern post-punk influences. Many of the tracks would fit in seamlessly on the playlist of your average Arctic Monkeys fan, while the more experimental tracks blend genres with an inventiveness not usually expected of a decade-old indie band. With all Jon McClure’s talk of Corbyn, there were worries that any forthcoming releases would be overwrought political affairs. On the contrary, this album is decidedly personal and spends its energy reaching out to all genres, rather than to preach. The lyrics are at times confessional and show off a flair for storytelling – Juliet Knows is a highlight in this regard – but are often overshadowed by the musical journey this record takes its listener on.
Many bands attempt stylistic transcendence, but few manage such a diversity across twelve tracks as The Rev and co. have achieved here. The one-time heavyweight champions of the world took on an ambitious fight; but on The Death of a King, they certainly aren’t punching above their weight.
Joseph Stevens can be found on Bandcamp here: indefinitearticles.bandcamp.com
All words by Joseph Stevens via Paul Scott-Bates.