Review Summary: Like so many before them, Rival Sons play blues rock with a pulsating hard-on. The difference is their flawless execution and mastery of hooks means theirs have a few more veins.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
If we’re honest, we can make an argument that at least 85% of modern music either blatantly rips off something from the past or is at least heavily influenced by it. Rival Sons on the surface might seem like just another retro-rock revivalist band pining for the days when Boston, Skynyrd, Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, and James Marshal Hendrix ravaged the earth in glutton-fueled rock glory, and there is absolutely nothing unique about their sound to belie that stereotype. Their vocalist sounds like the result of Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant running a train on a drugged-out hippie groupie, and the guitarist plays riffs that sound like Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” sped up about 10 notches and with an injection of badass. Like so many before them, Rival Sons play blues rock with a pulsating hard-on. The difference is their flawless execution and mastery of hooks means theirs have a few more veins. Think The Black Crowes with more balls or Wolfmother without the fail.
“Pressure and Time” is a masterful tribute to the best elements of classic rock. It’s a ten song, thirty minute exercise that doesn’t overstay its welcome and wisely sticks to the formula that the best brand of rawk is lean and mean. The overriding atmosphere is nostalgia, beer commercials, and prescribing that feeling that you’re at an outdoor festival in a time when it was perfectly acceptable if not encouraged to get rip-roaring drunk and arrested. The time when rock came up was a time when getting forcibly detained at a show for rocking-the-f*ck-out was a badge of honor, and Rival Sons have clearly paid attention to every nuance of what makes badass rock n ’roll badass in the first place.
Opener “All Over The Road” would be in a Coors commercial right now if it had been written in 1975. It’s all southern-rock testosterone rolled up in a fast but heavy hitting package. “Young Love” and its dirty desert riff and whoa-oh chorus is the kind of song that would best accompany Pat Swayze kicking some serious goon ass at the Double Deuce in “Road House,” or playing in the background to Tarantino’s “From Dusk Till Dawn,” preferably at the parts where they are trying to paint George Clooney as the kind of guy prison bosses run screaming from or the one where the vampires come out of nowhere and tear sh*t up. The absurdly catchy “Get Mine” is the type of song Black Stone Cherry is really pissed they didn’t write while trying to rip off Blackfoot, and the towering dinosaur funk of the title track, “Gypsy Heart,” and “White Noise” add a needed element of psychedelic amid the unstoppable onslaught of face-caving blues riffs. Of course, no classic rock orientated album would be complete without not one, but two ballads, and “Pressure and Time” delivers on both clichéd yet awesome formulas: “Only One” is the love ballad, the type of tender track that has just enough oomph for secretly sensitive quasi-badasses to play air-guitar to in dusty pool halls, while closer “Face of Light” is all the second half of Led Zeppelin 3 with its intricate folksy style and call-to-arms uplifting coda.
Rival Sons cover every base of proper classic rock aping and do it better than almost anybody who has tried in the last ten years. In a world where it’s much too easy to copy something vintage and get away with it without really even trying, Rival Sons have produced something special despite having any originality whatsoever. If you’re going to take on a champion, its best to recognize its strengths. Rival Sons have recently opened for Judas Priest and Alice Cooper and after listening to “Pressure and Time” it’s entirely likely and conceivable they blew both elder parties off the stage. Just like he was when high-fiving Plant behind bent-over groupies like Christian Bale in “American Psycho,” Paul Rodgers would be proud of his rock creation.