A commendable debut effort that doesn't quite set fire as well as their tour van.
Ironically for a band who spontaneously set their tour van on fire to get the perfect album cover, there’s little that’s spontaneous within The Amazons‘ debut effort. That’s not to say there’s a lack of quality here – the Reading-based rockers continue to prove why they are one of the most promising upcoming acts in British rock, with flourishes of mettlesome originality spotted throughout and riffs for days. But since bursting into the limelight with esteemed performances on Later… With Jools Holland, BBC Introducing and even our own Surge Radio, we expected them to lead acts like Slaves, Nothing But Thieves, and Sundara Karma in transforming the British rock scene. Instead, The Amazons is a thoroughly agreeable, if sometimes repetitive, collection of songs stuck somewhere between indie and hard rock.
The record starts promisingly as guitarist Chris Alderton doesn’t let you miss the band’s arrival with a pulsating motif inspired by the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Nirvana on ‘Stay With Me.’ This is in the heavier opening half of the album, where lyrics take a bit of a backseat in favour of head-banging guitar solos and Joe Emmett’s pounding drums. “No there’s nothing wrong with being alone / But being alone is being without you,” croons frontman Matt Thomson above the crashing guitar in ‘Stay With Me’; he opens with the somewhat mawkish “Junk food forever / Late nights together” in ‘Junk Food Forever.’
For the most part, that doesn’t matter: you’ll be paying far more attention to the stadium-filling guitar and drums than Thomson’s dewy-eyed lyrics. It’s the kind of stuff that will have festival crowds enamored with the band come summer – heavy enough to rock out to and provide something different from the typical alternative & indie mix but not so much so as to put off the mainstream crowd, the band has found that British rock sweet-spot currently dominated by Royal Blood. And with riffs as infectious as those on ‘In My Mind’ and ‘Black Magic,’ there’s a good chance they’ll tempt even the most avid pop fans towards the heavier side of rock.
Therefore, it’s all the more unfortunate that The Amazons rarely push the boundaries of rock, preferring basic lyrics over thought-provoking ones and producing samey riffs that struggle to stand out from the crowd on ‘Burn My Eyes,’ ‘Raindrops,’ and ‘Something In The Water.’ You’ve got to give the band credit for producing tracks like ‘Black Magic’ and ‘In My Mind’ in their debut album, but given that it was completed a year ago, you’d have hoped that they would have revisited the record later down the line to give those fledgling songs the extra touch they needed to be great.
The other problem the band have is with their overall sound. For the first half of the album it’s like you’re listening to Royal Blood’s groundbreaking first LP all over again, but from ‘Ultraviolet’ (and especially in ‘Holy Roller’) the tone takes an altogether lighter shift towards the sort of indie popularised by Catfish And The Bottlemen and Circa Waves. It’s slightly jarring and doesn’t suit the band as well as the darker, more intense tracks that start the album. While not album-breaking, it would have been nice to see The Amazons stick to what they know they can do.
For all its misgivings, The Amazons is still a good record, just not quite a great one. Although it is admittedly difficult to stand out in a now crowded and rejuvenated British heavy rock scene, it would have been nice to see more risks in this debut effort. Instead, they’ve produced several stadium-filling delights in the likes of ‘In My Mind’ and ‘Black Magic,’ but also some slightly lighter, and slightly safer, indie-focused tunes like ‘Ultraviolet’ and ‘Holy Roller.’ They certainly have the talent to push the boat out as much as Royal Blood did back in 2014 – and for their second album I hope they actually do – but for now The Amazons just keep things happily ticking along for British rock.
The Amazons is out now via Fiction Records