Sunday, 2 June 2013

The National Rifle - Almost Endless

Album review by

This will be the fifth album by Philadelphia's The National Rifle since their formation in 2006 and it shows no signs of a mid-career slump or a band resting on their laurels; 'Almost Endless' is so full of youthful energy that it could easily be passed off as a highly accomplished debut. You can use terms like powerpop, indie, electro-rock, punk, college-rock and more, but what it boils down to is that The National Rifle write terrific pop songs. They're a pop band, they just happen to to use a conventional guitar band set-up to express these ideas, although there is an electronic side to what they do too, and many of the songs are given an extra dimension thanks to this.

With a pair of guitar-pop tracks that are influenced by everyone from Big Star to Teenage Fanclub to Weezer, 'Coke Beat' and 'Young in the Future' allow you to think you've got to grips with the band early on. They're full of melody and big sounding choruses, but then they take a slight sidestep. You notice instantly that 'Glass Line' is different from its rumbling introduction, but then comes a female vocal which is something of a surprise given the male leads of the opening brace. Just when you're thinking this was done to add a little sweetness to a less immediate song (which it does) they go and spring another catchy chorus on you. It's the story of the album; there's no indulgence or unnecessary showing off, this band are all about writing good tunes. Pure and simple.

The title-track is another sidestep, this time adding a little funk and a near falsetto vocal to its indie-rock sound and stop/start beat. Again, just when you think this is the measure of the song, they launch into a big melodic finale. It seems you can't stop the pop. Another sidestep? This one's more of a leap, as 'So Real' is borrowed from the 1980s. It begins as an upbeat synth-pop number and then throws in a Duran Duran-sized chorus, but it's tastefully done and a definite standout. They hang on to those synths a bit longer for 'Back To Nature', a brief instrumental piece that smashes straight into the powerpop of 'Visuals' with its irresistible electronic instrumental break. The scratchy, punky 'Street Burn' is yet another slight sidestep, and by now it's clear The National Rifle, while never straying too far off course, don't like to repeat themselves if they can help it. This theory is cemented with final track 'Night High' which has an early New Order feel musically and is another cracker. 'Almost Endless' doesn't have a bad bone in its body.

The National Rifle's website

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Saturday, June 15th - 7pm @Hannahfest, Fredon, NJ
Thursday, June 27th – 8pm @North Star Bar (Benefit for Boston Marathon Victims), Philadelphia, PA

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