Thursday 1 November 2012

Theatre Royal - At The End Of A River, The Sea...

Album review by KevW

South-Easterners Theatre Royal are a band that don't seem to fit. It may seem quite paradoxical but they're so conventional that they defy convention altogether. Hailing from Medway, the UK garage-rock capital, Theatre Royal don't design their songs to hark back to 60s beat groups or 70s punks; they're essentially an indie group, but they're not lo-fi or twee enough to be classed as indiepop, not arrogant and dull enough to be considered lad-rock; there may be depth and some excellent arrangements on this album but it's by no means experimental; they're not hard enough to be a rock group or commercial enough to be mainstream, yet they're not unique enough to be labelled uncategorizable. Unlike other bands they're not trying to be anything, and this subsequently makes them all the more thrilling.

As a collection of songs, 'At The End Of A River, The Sea...' is quite brilliant, stripped of any image or ideals other than simply writing great tracks. Great tracks like the majestic 'Death On The River' with its catchy and anthemic chorus, or the gloriously big sound of 'Home Of The Achingly Dull', or the driving burst of 'These Windows'. Because no apparent influences are being followed it leaves Theatre Royal the luxury of letting their songs form free from any set notions, aside from sounding as good as possible. You can feel the care and attention that's been put into each track, as though carefully nurtured and carefully considered, each with its own identity. The wistful, ballad-like 'Tall Ships' is full of passion and feeling, then it's immediately followed by the surging powerpop of 'I'm Leaving In The Morning (I Don't Think I'm Alive)'. There's not a duffer to be found, these guys have ensured that by setting what are obviously high standards.

If an album is to be a statement, something that this certainly feels like, then a fitting curtain-closer should be the icing on the cake. 'High Tide And Spring Time' doesn't disappoint on that front; it feels like closure, it feels like the end of a journey; a point of reflection and optimism. It's a grand finale that's even got a bloody false ending, just to drill home the fact that they're not messing about. If you want a label then I guess "guitar-pop" is generic enough to fit. Theatre Royal have made an honest album that is free from any pretense and not attached to any genre; it's a record that is, purely and simply, a cracking bunch of tunes. Tunes to sing along to, tunes to play again and again, tunes to get to know inside out; tunes to remember. In the age of pick and choose, skip and shuffle, it's been claimed that the art of making an 'album' has been lost, something that's simply not true and here is living proof. Theatre Royal have made an album in the truest sense, and it's one that's fit for a king.

Theatre Royal's website

Buy the album

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