It was seemingly by chance that I happened along the Festival Republic Stage when The Family Rain were playing at Reading Festival last year. A group of us wandered over there only to witness one of the most interesting new live acts to emerge two years ago. Hailing from Bath, the trio of brothers have succeed in building up quite a bit of hype for their debut; a string of recent tour dates and a number of support slots with big name artists like Jake Bugg have garnered them a solid following. I’m very pleased to say that the band certainly deserves the attention, as Under the Volcano is pretty much everything I hoped it would be.
As full of life and colour as it’s namesake, opener ‘Carnival’ really sets the scene for a record that just screams unbridled energy and passion. Very little is subdued in this debut, even the apparent ‘softer’ tracks, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, Under the Volcano begins with a delightful slap in the face and thrives on that lingering stinging sensation right through to the last second. In fact, I admire how honest the whole thing is: not one song tries to hide behind over-complicated composition or unneeded extras. Yet it’s never overly-simplistic either, with songs like ‘Trust me…I’m a Genius’s reliance on percussion or it’s use of basic backing vocal segments never seeming too limited.
There are moments where the record threatens to dissolve into a bit of a chaotic mess, such as during the solo of ‘Trust me…I’m Genius’, but it always seems to pull back just before it teeters off the cliff. These moments of uncertainty are so often forgotten when put up against moments of pure unabashed confidence, such as the brief yet memorable chorus to ‘Feel Better F.R.A.N.K’, which places singer Will’s strong vocals at the forefront. Another song in which Will’s vocals really shine is ‘Together’; a track which begins with a gorgeous soft echo effect colouring his competent voice beautifully.
But one of the truly shining jewels in Under the Volcano’s crown is ‘Reason to Die’; a pounding, almost punk inspired sadistic romp with an excellently groovy riff and a niggling resemblance to Arctic Monkey’s single ‘R U Mine?’. Another musical inspiration I would cite is early Kings of Leon, especially in ‘Binocular’; with it’s simple yet catchy southern riff and morally dubious subject matter it really reminded me of the good o’l days of the Kings.
However, what did disappoint a tad was the notable lack of my personal favourite track ‘Friction’, the song I always play when recommending the band to others: with a simple yet effective riff and damned catchy chorus, it really should have been included. Another minor complaint is that the final song, a track that should be something memorable to end on, is a rather uneventful outro. Considering how well each track has stood out up to final song ‘All the Best’, it’s a real shame that the band failed to end on a high note.
Yet, despite these hiccups, this really is a very strong debut from a continuously exciting band. Right from the get-go, The Family Rain grabs your attention with their sheer energy and character and maintains this hold almost all the way through. It’s a real joy to hear a record that’s so short and sweet, and yet so decisive in it’s intent and direction.
Under the Volcano will be released by Virgin EMI Records/Universal on 3rd Febuary