REVIEW: Royal Bangs - Let it Beep

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I got drunk and played Royal Bangs drum at a show once. Yeah. I admit it. It was me. But in my defense, there was no way that I wasn't going to be a part of the insane bacchanal noise coming out of the quintet of lads from Knoxville. While the prevailing winds of indie are blowing extra-musical, extra-slick (see Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, etc) Royal Bangs are something totally different. Heavy on the low-end, dythrambic percussion, you might hear parts of the early 00s DC-scene coupled with a kind of hack-eyed optimism that could only come from a band not corrupted by the insularity of the east coast. Royal Bangs are their own animal.

I loved their prior album We Breed Champions even going so far as to put it #50 on our soon to be released "Best of the Decade" list (Spoiler Alert: It didn't make the final list). Unlike the live shows, which are booze-fueled rampages, Champions revealed the sound to be, dare I say it, melodic, hooky, and almost pop. Fast forward to aught 9 and Royal Bangs' latest effort, Let it Beep, which picks up right where it's baby brother left off.

If anything, Let it Bleep is too true to its name. The harmony of guitars and vocals are kicked to the side for more keyboard wizardry. "Brainbo" is a prime example -- a math rock intro into a s 8-bit meets vocoder 21st century psychedelia. In fact, the whole record skews more into the math rock vein. Even the rambunctious jam "Poison Control" with it's anthem-worthy chorus ("I'm not a kid / I don't fuck around!") feels more constrained that the preceding album. There is, as Tom Waits might say, less pulp in this orange juice.

While for hardcore fans of 'Bangs shows that might seem like a bad thing, in fact the album shows off the musicianship of Knoxville's punky sons. "My Car is Haunted" drops a post-funk bass line before soaring off into the haunted yonder. "Shitty X-Mas" mashes what seems like a thousand melodies into one semi-sweet self-destruction.

Royal Bangs don't fuck around. Each semblance of a noodly-guitar is pumped with noise to the point of eardrum explosion. It's a noise that always sounds, rather surprisingly, melodic. A keyboard beep that turns into a synth line, a beer can that turns into a night of rampage and debauchery. It's noise that turns out to have heart and soul. It's a transformation for the group that makes sense. And if you see 'em play live, get drunk and bust on that tom for me.


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