(This review was initially published by LOUD HORIZON – in its old format – back in May 2010, but has been reproduced now to coincide with the release of the band’s new EP ‘Spit And a Dream,’ the review of which can also be read within the Indie Albums section.)
This is a debut album? There are bands out there who don’t succeed in producing such an accomplished long-player even after several attempts!
Don’t ask me specifically what it is that draws me to this band / album. It’s not that they play my preferred Punk music. Nor are they overtly Artrock in their make-up. They’re most certainly not Blues orientated.
Come to think about it, they’re really nothing….. but at the same time everything!
THEATRE ROYAL are a four-piece from the South East of England who take their name from Chatham’s derelict Victorian ‘Theatre Royal’ which they broke into along with Billy Childish and twisted folkster Lupen Crook to play the (unofficial) last performance at the venue.
‘from rubble rises…..’ runs to eleven tracks over thirty-nine minutes. It is not genre-specific as I have already alluded, but broad-brush, it could be described as part melodic rock / part artrock. It’s really quite an eclectic mix of songs, some that are quite instant, and others that may require a couple of listens.
Opening song, ‘Cold Charity’ has a real rock edge to it. It’s pretty raucous, but in a controlled way. In some respects, it sounds like an updated classic rock track, with buzz-saw guitars and big dramatic, hooky choruses. At the same time though, I couldn’t argue if told that it was also a nod to the late Sixties epics.
‘Spit And a Dream’ like all the tracks actually, features some really strong, unforced vocals and understated harmonies. This is a rather ‘timeless’ track that will not date, with an infectious guitar riff and another memorable chorus. ‘If You Could Stand Up (You’d Walk Away)’ features some horns to round off the melody. However, unlike many bands, THEATRE ROYAL keep these firmly in the background and there is no sense of them overpowering either the vocals or guitar. ‘The Shape Of Things To Come’ is the only song of which it could be said reminds me of another, the riff being similar to that of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Jane.’ So that’s a winner also, then!
Mid-album, ‘Turn To Rust’ and ‘Painted Smile’ are the tracks that perhaps need a couple of listens. The latter is slower in pace than the majority of the album, and the vocals are generally in a lower key. It’s definitely a ‘grower’ and maybe there’s a little bit of Lou Reed influence poking through in parts?
‘The Wheel’ picks up on the pace again, and again features some trumpet, Tijuana style! But again, the band have got the balance just perfect. ‘Don’t Stop’ carries on in the same vein, with a great stomping beat and trumpet backing like a Spaghetti Western film played with the ‘fast forward’ button depressed! Actually, that’s not a bad analogy considering the following track, ‘Foreign Shores’ races through with a real galloping beat, accentuated by the guitar.
‘This Burning Man’ doesn’t actually sound like them, but is in the style that the likes of James made so popular back in the day. It’s a perfect lead in to the final track, ‘ The Ballad Of Tommy Hall.’ Normally, I’m not in favour of slower tracks finishing off an album, but this one is so anthemic and atmospheric that listing eleven of eleven is perfect. It rumbles through with a bit of a droned bass background and some nice harmonica with sing-a-long vocals.
It’s the intention of THEATRE ROYAL to issue this album as a strictly limited edition, hand-stamped, CD. Which will be great if you get hold of one, as you are bound to see it featured in Record Collector in a few years time. However, I firmly believe that given the right exposure, the band may find demand well exceeds their expectations and a more ‘general’ release may be called for a little down the line.
It’s not very often that I would ‘strongly recommend’ checking out a particular band as everyone’s tastes are obviously different, but THEATRE ROYAL seem to have the ability to cross over genres and should therefore have a pretty universal appeal.
So yeah, check them out at http://www.myspace.com/wearetheatreroyal
(Released through The Preservation Society Presents on 5th June 2010)