There's a charm that flows through 'Under The Volcano'
You’ve gotta admire a band who dare to still think big. “We’ve got dreams of NME coming to do a piece on the second album, and it’s us hitting golf balls into the sea from a castle in Mexico, on peyote,” said Family Rain drummer Tim Walter in the Bath trio’s Radar interview in late 2012. That the 10 songs of ‘Under The Volcano’ – recorded in a three-week burst in the almost-as-enticing environs of Hansa Studios in Berlin (home to Bowie, Iggy et al in the ’70s) – sound quite so blatantly in thrall to Brit-rock’s glory years should come as little surprise.
But are they doomed to failure for being as retro as you can get in 2014? There’s a charm that flows right through ‘…Volcano’ that suggests not. Bolshy and raw-sounding, it’s a warm record that entices because it pushes the Walter brothers’ personalities to the fore. Had it been honed over two years in Abbey Road at a cost of billions, it wouldn’t connect. But it’s the simplicity, and the relative cheapness of their sound and set-up, that resonates like early Supergrass or Charlatans records did. It’s there in singer Will’s voice – rich, proudly English and pushed to the absolute max (no reverb here whatsoever). And it’s all over the melodies too: ‘On My Back’, ‘Feel Better (Frank)’ and opener ‘Carnival’ are all written with arenas in mind, while last single ‘Binocular’ is a blast of Faces-style blues. ‘Pushing It’, meanwhile, takes its lead from Arctic Monkeys’ recent endeavours – meaty riffs, sleazy vocals.
They’re at their strongest when they lose themselves, as on ‘Trust Me… I’m A Genius’, the track that broke them all those months ago. It’s been re-recorded here but it still sounds like the most anthemic thing they’ve done. The best bit comes towards the end, when Will defiantly sings, “I’m in love with a dead scene”. It’s a cocky, comical declaration about their influences, and proves that, above all, The Family Rain are as indebted to the myths of rock’n’roll as all good dreamers should be in 2014.