Reverend And The Makers have always been something of a love-them-or-hate-them band ever since they burst onto the scene with the big pop hits Heavyweight Champion Of The World and 18-30, from their 2007 debut album The State Of Things. At least part of reason behind this divisive attitude towards the Sheffield five-piece is the large personality of frontman Jon McClure, better known as The Reverend.
McClure has always been an outspoken figure – something demonstrated by his decision to turn down major record labels in the wake of Arctic Monkeys’ breakout success – and, as is often the case, such single-mindedness makes for an easy target when the music doesn’t deliver. As a result, the band’s second album, 2009’s A French Kiss In The Chaos, was quickly dismissed by critics and unfairly maligned for its political musings – despite being a solid return.
Following a three year gap, McClure and co re-emerged with third album @Reverend_Makers, which dispensed with the politics of its predecessor in favour of club bangers such as the monstrous Bassline. The record was as divisive among critics as ever, but its fun, carefree sound was a surprising twist on the band’s previous work and proved a hit with fans. So much so, in fact, that new album ThirtyTwo sees them continue to embrace the indie dancefloor anthems that served them so well on their third LP.
Opener Detonator sets the tone for the rest of ThirtyTwo – named so because it also happens to be the age of The Rev – with its spiky synths and clap beat exploding on an energetic chorus. “I’ll take you somewhere we can hit your detonator,” McClure asserts, with his recognisable, nonchalant vocal, before the pulsating beat, which sounds eerily similar to Duck Sauce’s infectious hit Barbra Streisand, kicks in.
The big choruses keep on coming in the form of The Devils Radio, which is a quick, scatter gun of a track, with an addictive riff that owes a lot to Ska acts like Madness, while Time is another that will almost certainly be a fan favourite when the band take the album on the road. The song’s thunderous synth line rumbles away almost inconspicuously, before the anthemic chorus takes off, as McClure belts out: “You know you wanna go outside/ in the sunshine, sometimes.”
Yet the album’s standout chorus undoubtedly belongs to Different Trains. Initially, the track is a bit of a chaotic mess, with its throbbing synth line and irritating vocal chant, but then from nowhere McClure pulls out one of the catchiest choruses since the band’s debut, as he sings: “There’s no need to worry/ you don’t have to hurry/ we’re two different trains.” Old Enough (To Know Better) follows a similar path, but fails to quite hit the same heights, with one of the more forgettable choruses on the record.
While the bulk of ThirtyTwo is driven by punchy synths and massive choruses, there are moments where Reverend And The Makers scale things back – with mixed results. Happy is one such false start on the record, with its meandering beat and distorted vocals resulting in a rather cloying sound. Play Me is better, making good use of sweeping strings as it builds towards a euphoric conclusion, but like Happy, it does sap the natural momentum of the record.
Although there are most definitely some issues with ThirtyTwo, ultimately, they are outweighed by the positives. The record is unlikely to win over critics or result in Reverend And The Makers being added to the Radio 1 playlists anytime soon, but then that ship seems to have already sailed. What it will do, though, is appease their loyal core of support – otherwise known as the “Rev Army” – and for a band such as Reverend And The Makers that is the number one priority.