Review Summary: Pure Love 2.0? The jury is still out.
When Frank left Gallows shortly after the release of their second LP Grey Britain
, he went off to pursue other musical itches; writing a more upbeat selection of indie-rock tunes -- that wouldn’t destroy his psyche like the Gallows was doing at the time -- with his new project, Pure Love. Fans and followers of Frank were left with a double barrel of confusion, firstly because of the sudden departure from Gallows, given they’d just reached respectable heights commercially and artistically, and secondly because of the abrupt shift in style he was making with his new band. But Frank isn’t one to stick around for something if he feels it has ran its course -- with Pure Love being a reactionary response to that. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop fans patiently waiting and praying he’d return to his hardcore roots, and in 2015 they got exactly that with The Rattlesnakes debut album Blossom
: a blistering slab of heavy blues, punk and hardcore, underpinned by a ruthless, raw sound. Frank was back and he was pissed off.
Despite Frank and co. best efforts, Pure Love didn’t really take off. It certainly wasn’t down to the interesting songs Anthems
brought with it, but I feel it was a little shell shocked and people weren’t ready for it at the time. Now, fast forward to 2017 and The Rattlesnakes are shifting it up a gear with their sophomore record, Modern Ruin
. Perception is a funny thing, and there is a grey, cynical question buried at the heart of Modern Ruin
that I can’t seem to shift from my mind whenever I listen to it: will people listen to this record with an open-mind and see a bunch of guys pushing themselves to their creative limits, or will it simply be seen as “has Frank really put Pure Love behind him?” And in all honesty, I can see the argument, given the failings of a band he really believed in and loved, one would assume it a hard pill to swallow as you watch it die out. So it begs to question why he came back with an album like Blossom
; did he really intend to set the world on fire again, or was it simply to get peoples attention before giving them another dose of that Pure Love sound with a different name? In a nutshell Modern Ruin
takes certain elements of what Blossom
did and dominates it with a hefty amount of indie-rock influence and the catchy, sweet-tempered melodies Pure Love brought us. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. The songs on here show a band taking their time, and really trying to branch out with the band's sound; the final product is something that stands as strongly as the album previous to it. The problem now is convincing all those punk fans who enjoyed Blossom
, to get on board with the risks the band took making this thing.
Yes, Modern Ruin
isn’t what I will assume many will want from the band’s second effort, which could easily be looked at as a Pure Love experience on steroids, but for those willing to open their mind and listen to what these guys are offering, you’ll discover a record far more respectable and mature than its predecessor. The first two noticeable things about Modern Ruin
is the slick, silky production -- to that of the down to brass tacks sound of Blossom
-- and the album's heavy thirst for catchy melodic hooks and indie-rock riffs, albeit done with a sharp bite from the instrumental work supporting it. The result of these two things brings out a different dynamic to the band, and furthermore sometimes creates a sound Frank has never delved into before, with the opening track of all things, “Bluebelle“, which hears Frank really taking his voice into a different league. The same can be said for the rest of the band who really bring out their colours on this record and provide a lot more ingredients and spice to their compositions than the rather primal offerings previous.
has a kind of structural design to it as well, it definitely appears evident that the band have tried to please everyone, despite the sonic change up, by hitting markers and placing them at times where they're needed most, ensuring the record is cohesive and has a naturally engaging flow to it. Musically the likes of “Lullaby” and “Wild Flowers“ have a much more subdued approach to their production: the former sounds a little flat, with everything sitting at a pretty equal level -- no one thing seems to be more dominant than the other -- and while that reads as a bit of a hindrance or criticism, it's not; it appears intentionally done that way and, strangely, it works to the songs advantage, creating a very gentle and laid back aesthetic. While the latter track has a little more punch to it in comparison, it walks a terrain best described as Pure Love meets Arctic Monkeys. Then we get to songs like “Vampires“ and “Snake Eyes” that find a middle ground of bringing out a slightly more punishing and bassy edge than the aforementioned: they hold a snarling grip that grabs on to you while Frank shifts between gruff and clean vocals at its verses, before finishing you off with an array of catchy choruses. Finally we get songs like “Modern Ruin” and “God Is My Friend“ that do a half decent job of feeding the slightly heavier side of things. Regardless of any pigeon holing I’m doing, the tracks on here, there’s no denying the songwriting is top notch; it’s easy, accessible and great fun to listen to. As a singer, Frank has improved tremendously: from his soft crooning to the full-throttle singing and screaming (albeit not much of it), he does a brilliant job of holding the listeners interest throughout every song and proves once again he has more to offer people. But it isn't just Frank's diverse vocal range that keeps you engaged throughout the album's 12 tracks -- melodies and hooks are brought to you in the truck load -- it's little ideas like "Vampires" backing vocals or "Acid Veins" folky swagger, that really bring a high level of quality to this LP.
So, what’s the problem with Modern Ruin
? Well if you bought into the band because of its fantastic blend of blues rock riffing and hardcore punk, you are going to be very disappointed here. I've said a few times "indie-rock", and that is because this is what Modern Ruin
is; sure, there's a couple of heavy moments, but the visceral rage isn't present here like it was. It's an album that knuckles down on bringing you a much more musical offering: melodies, thought out riffs and song structures; everything has been meticulously planned and laid out. It would be unfair to compare this to its debut, given the fact it’s apples and oranges at this point, but the reality is, this drastic change in sound is what makes for the comparison. At the end of the day, a lot of what made this band so appealing to people in the first place was the seer intensity the band brought to the table, which is unfortunately lacking this time around. And ultimately, the album will form a divide on its fans because the focus has shifted to a more indie-rock arena than the punk rock one The Rattlesnakes were originally selling.
To be honest, it would be a shame if anyone let this slip through their headphones, because it is a well constructed album with bucket loads of enjoyable moments; in fact, there isn’t a duff song on here. However, the reality is they’ve stripped back one of the band’s biggest selling points, and that won’t slide with some people. Equally, for those that enjoyed Pure Love but didn’t enjoy Gallows or some of The Rattlesnakes first LP, they should lap this up as well. Preference and style to one side, these lads took a risk with this album, and the final words should be that they did a successful job in bringing out a solid and interesting follow-up to their debut, that pushes their creative limits and ensures they maintain relevant in a time where music is extremely disposable. It's not like they've shifted styles without any merit, you can tell every ounce of creative energy has gone into this, and it should be highlighted as such. Modern Ruin
is a great album to kick off 2017, and should be heard by music lovers alike, but for any purists out there, don’t go into this expecting to hear another Juggernaut.
EDITIONS: MP3, CD, Vinyl, CD/BOOK
Packaging: Various, exclusive vinyl colours to hunt down. The CD/book comes with the album, and the book contains a collection of guitar tabs, studio photos and lyrics. While the Hyper Deluxe package comes with a unique hand painted CD/Book -- signed, a painting, exclusive vinyl colour, USB containing exclusive videos, a pin and stickers.
Special Edition: N/A