Album Reviews

The Family Rain – Under The Volcano

(Virgin EMI) UK release date: 3 February 2014

The Family Rain - Under The Volcano In early 2013, a home recorded demo entitled Trust Me… I’m A Genius by three brothers from Bath surfaced and quickly began doing the rounds, with Lily Allen’s ITNO label snapping them up. Will, Ollie and Tim Walter had been around for several years in various guises, most notably as a The Darkness inspired outfit going by the name of Rock Pirates.

A rebirth as The Family Rain coincided with their new focus as the stabilisers came off after their ‘learning’ period. After a string of singles, the band have now finalised their full length debut after its four week recording at the famous Berlin Hansa Studios, under the guidance of Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian producer Jim Abbiss.

The demo had showcased the band’s musicianship and ability to build a decent, short two minute rock track that sat somewhere between one of their more recent influences (The Black Keys) and some of the more energetic ’90s bands such as Supergrass. Growing up listening to The Beatles and more fittingly The Rolling Stones has also helped define their sound, although they state that their identity cannot, intentionally, be pinned down to a single specific genre. A recent cover of Depeche Mode’s classic Enjoy The Silence proved that their influences are wide ranging but despite claims, their sound is undeniably that of blues rock, with obvious (if lofty) comparisons being Kings Of Leon and The White Stripes as well as The Black Keys.

Three singles have since followed as 2013 saw their live shows gain much recognition, particularly following stints as support for two of last year’s biggest solo acts, Miles Kane and Jake Bugg, with festival appearances and their own headline tour completing a busy year.

Tracks such as album opener Carnival, with its upbeat, energetic tempo, driving bass and decent guitaring prove that the band clearly possess the seemingly limitless energy and power to exhilarate an expectant crowd in a live setting. But on Under The Volcano, there’s a nagging feeling of ‘not quite enough’ already evident.

Of the singles, Feel Better (FRANK) is the most enjoyable: a manic drum pattern, pounding bassline and raucous guitar combine neatly alongside one of the band’s better, but still not completely satisfying choruses of “and it’s supposed to make me feel better, it’s supposed to make me all right”. Reason To Die sounds less upbeat, built around a doomy bassline and guitar to match but again it superficially sounds better than it probably is, even containing Kasabian-like wailing as more influences appear.

Pushing It is a bouncy fist pumping effort that fails to explode. It isn’t bad, it isn’t great either. Together is the only song in the collection to top four minutes, lulling the listener in with a quiet blues rock intro before developing into one of the more memorable and sonically pleasing moments, but oh for a killer chorus – yet again, it’s so near yet so far. And the blues rock stomp of Binocular will undoubtedly prove a live highlight with the chorus a likely sing-along moment, if an unspectacular one.

A 1947 Malcolm Lowry novel gave the band the album title and it would appear to have inadvertently summed up the whole effort. The brothers have created something that will probably end up bubbling under the mainstream, without completely erupting. When Ollie Walter yells “Don’t Waste Your Time on me, I will only let you down” it will be easy for the cynics to agree, such is the lack of originality here. But should they hone those hooks and melodies, and perhaps attempt to channel that live energy further, then there is no reason why this volcano cannot erupt in the future.

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