Release Date: Oct 11, 2011
Record label: Nettwerk
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Garage Rock Revival
[a]The Rifles[/a] continue to happen without anybody’s permission. Yeah, to the folk more interested in [a]S.C.U.M[/a]’s conceptual art at the Shacklewell Arms, they’re scoff-worthy. But to the 5,000 who snapped up tickets for their Brixton Academy show (and plenty of similar-sized venues), they’re heroes. To cut to the chase, this third album is as good a guitar-pop set as you’ll hear all year: bright harmonies, brighter guitars, string stabs, handclaps and every classic songwriter trick in the book.
Recorded at Paul Weller's Black Barn Studios and endorsed by the Modfather himself, the sleeve notes of the Rifles' third studio album, Freedom Run, suggests the London five-piece have stuck rigidly to the same lad rock formula which has seen them replace Ocean Colour Scene as the Jam legend's mod revivalists of choice. However, perhaps inspired by a change in personnel (Garda's Lee Burgess and Kenton Shinn have taken over from founding members Grant Marsh and Rob Pyne), and the presence of the Verve producer Chris Potter, the follow-up to 2009's The Great Escape has slightly toned down their trademark attitude and bravado in favor of a gentler, and some might say slightly romantic, indie pop sound which proves that their claims of progression weren't just hollow talk. The sweeping strings, jangly Brit-pop guitars, and triumphant brass sections on lead single "Tangled Up in Love" recall the late-'90s heyday of Divine Comedy, "Nothing Matters" is a yearning slice of orchestral pop whose spacious percussion, orchestral flourishes, and aching harmonies produce an enchanting Spector-ish Wall of Sound, while the band embrace '60s psychedelia with encouraging results on the Hendrix-inspired "Interlude," the sprawling acid rock atmospherics of "Little Boy Blue (Human Needs)," and the Stone Roses-esque "Falling.
The Rifles’ first album, No Love Lost, sounded like a Mod revival, harking back to a tradition of British pop led by the Jam. On their third album, Freedom Run, this influence has taken a backseat, despite being recorded in the studio of the Jam’s frontman, Paul Weller. Instead, the influence is another tradition of British guitar music: Britpop.
Everyone has the desire to play it safe, at least to some degree. This can be true in day-to-day life, as well as in creative ventures. Unfortunately, the risk-free route doesn’t yield many great musical results. In the case of The Rifles‘ latest album, Freedom Run, problems stem from a lack of variety throughout its 13 tracks.