Sophomore slump – a phrase which refers to an instance in which a second effort fails to live up to the first.
British rock band Royal Blood very recently released their second album ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ on June 16th (via Warner Bros), following on from their incredibly successful debut, the self-titled ‘Royal Blood’, which was released in 2014. The band are known for their quasi-unique drum and (heavily distorted) electric bass sound and after already releasing one album full of that , a lot of people began to wonder if it would sound a little tired and a bit overdone on their second album. And well, it did.
The band released almost half the album as singles and the problem with doing that was that they had given the best songs away for free. ‘Where Are You Now?’, ‘Lights Out’, ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ and ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ all do a great job at selling the album, but the remaining six do not live up to the standard set by the singles. Songs like ‘She’s Creeping’ really highlight this with boring lyrics and instrumental breaks we’ve heard many times before, presenting the listener with a generally disappointing roster of songs.
The disappointment comes from a lot of the songwriting sounding a bit lazy and uninspired, almost like all the praise about how huge and dirty Mike Kerr‘s bass riffs are has gone to Kerr‘s head and he believes he doesn’t have to try as hard anymore. The lyrics aren’t great on this album either, and although they weren’t particularly great on the first album either; it sucks a hell of a lot out of potential enjoyment from this record. The lyrics generally revolve around Kerr dealing with a woman (almost exclusively referring to the woman in the form of third person pronouns) and nothing else, frankly. It’s fine in the world of pop music to be carried by your instrumentation but don’t make it that blatant. An unexpected highpoint was track 9, ‘Hole In Your Heart’; which adds a desperately needed bit of variety to the incredibly bland-sounding album in the form of an electric keyboard lead – plus it’s just a pretty great song all-round.
One thing that was really well done on this album were Ben Thatcher‘s drums. Incredibly tight and tasteful drumming is exactly what is needed to make a band like Royal Blood work and Thatcher has knocked it out of the park twice in a row with big beats and great grooves coming in literally every song. The production is also quite good on this album, albeit a little too squeaky clean on occasion for a band that present themselves as hard/blues/stoner rock band.
All-in-all ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ is an enjoyable listening experience for perhaps a casual listener, but may be a tad disappointing for a fan of Royal Blood – like getting the wrong drink served to you in a pub, but drinking it anyway because you already paid for it. Hopefully Royal Blood can overcome their second album syndrome and eventually step out of their comfort zone, before their Royal blood becomes overly common.