When it emerged that it only took two people to be as loud as war – see Jack and Meg White, Death From Above 1979 and The Black Keys – the suspicion was that riff-happy duos would start popping up all over the landscape, but this has not been the case. It appears that while three-pieces require a cut above in terms of ability, duos must be of a different category of multitasking altogether to get the same rock results as more crowded outfits.
So with the above acts either disbanded, reformed or stuck in a holding pattern, the arrival of Royal Blood is timely. The Brighton combo of bassist/singer Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher here blast out a riff manifesto on their debut of the like not seen since long before Queens of the Stone Age began needing Elton John to make records.
Kerr dashes about the fret and pedal boards to make something as mundane as a guitar a superfluous idea. From the opening bars of ‘Out Of The Black’, the riffs, each elastic, bludgeoning and smart, hammer forth. Scuzzed-up, megaphone vocals hitch a ride on pulsating, buzzsaw basslines on slick single ‘Figure It Out’ before breaking into an outro rampage. ‘You Can Be So Cruel’ is a more glam cousin of Queens’ ‘Do It Again’, while ‘Blood Hands’ slows things to a hard, bluesy lurch. Only half of ‘Little Monster’’s title is accurate.
The playing is imperious. Overdubs aside, Kerr’s bass, like Jesse F Keeler before him, does the work of three men, and in Thatcher, a new granite-hard percussion talent is revealed. But a key ingredient is that vocal; like a battle-hardened Dan Auerbach or an Anglian Tim Vanhammel, Kerr – an admitted Jeff Buckley disciple – brings vital contrast to the sonic testosterone with wild, huffing yelps, melody and perk. There’s a fair whiff of adolescence about it all, but if Royal Blood stick around and their sound calcifies with age, you can imagine a whole generation pairing up and ditching six strings for four.