2006 just called. They want their sounds back. In many ways, you’ve got to admire The Rifles for sticking to their guns (haha). Whilst most of their noughties peers have either followed Coldplay’s footsteps into sprawling commercial chart-toppers, or taken the Artic Monkeys’ path of Americanised bluesiness, The Rifles have stayed pretty much static. ‘Big Life’ sounds like it was recorded a decade ago, at the height of British indie rock mania. Only problem is it’s an afterthought. It’s formulaic, flavourless, and tragically late to the party.
Stylistically, ‘Big Life’ is a shift away from the London-locked Jam-inspired sound of The Rifles’ earlier releases into a jangle-pop British Invasion approach. It’s the typical Brit-rock mixing pot of Oasis, Razorlight, Supergrass and, naturally, The Beatles. The band have embraced Lennon and McCartney harmonies in particular, especially on the chirpy ‘Johnny Was A Friend Of Mine’.
But for all these lofty influences, the tracks just aren’t up to snuff, and the lyrics are as shallow as a preschool paddling pool. It’s indie filler at its blandest. Back in their heyday, The Rifles stood out from the crowd because of their home-grown London-proud aesthetic, but that seems to have been whitewashed away. Even vocalist Joel Stoker’s accent is noticeably watered down. Perhaps a short-sighted attempt to match Coldplay’s inoffensive accessibility.
‘Big Life’ is also a double album. A wise man once said double albums are just single albums with low standards. That rings true in this case. In this mess of forgettable album tracks it’s even harder to dig out the gems. But there are gems to be found, if you’re willing to hunt for them. ‘Turtle Dove’ is just as dated as the rest, but packs that plucky punch that The Rifles once had in bucket-loads. It recalls the sound of 2006’s ‘No Love Lost’, with a pinch of city-boy nostalgia and the zesty guitars of early-era Cure. ‘Young For A Day’ too captures some of their former glory, despite the slightly odd addition of an off-key children’s choir.
If you’re of the opinion that British Indie has become rather too moody or rather too dancey of late, then you may find something to hail in this mid-2000s throwback. For the rest of you, it’s a by-the-book release that’s a decade removed from being relevant. The noughties revival will come: everything gets a return. But ‘Big Life’ isn’t the kick-starter. Maybe it’s simply too soon, or maybe The Rifles just aren’t the ones to relight the jangle-rock flame.
‘Big Life’ is available now on Cooking Vinyl Records
This Rifles article was written by Matt George Lovett, a GIGsoup contributor