WHOEVER declared Sunday as the day of rest obviously didn’t anticipate The Rifles would be here this weekend.
With just over a month gone for the dust to settle on Freedom Run, the third album from the Essex five-piece, this latest visit promises to be a test of the Lynx Africa if ever there was one.
Where so many acts go off on often ill-advised tangents this far into their existence, The Rifles have retained and nurtured an urgency that has them still regarded by many as one of our most under-rated bands.
Then again, it’s sometimes nice when not everyone else gets it.
“Even though this is our third album, in many ways it feels like our first,” says frontman Joel Stoker, who doesn’t believe the Chingford act is standing still either. “It’s definitely a progression.”
The band’s attitude-lined début, No Love Lost, emerged five years ago with many either applauding or criticising those vivid Weller and Jam-like influences underlining their sound. The Great Escape, two years ago, further embellished The Rifles’ own identity and with a line-up change since then the sound has shifted in subtle fashion again, but lost none of its zeal.
Songs such as Dreamer, opening salvo on the new record, is a blast of romantic, timeless-yet-fresh guitar pop and swiftly banishes fears that manpower changes might have dented either style or tenacity. Quite the opposite, it seems The Rifles have simply fitted some fancy new hubcaps to their ride.
Yet rebirth and change are recurrent themes on Freedom Run, prompting the output to mix reflective with the anthemic; contrasting the romanticism of first single Tangled Up In Love with the early ’60s-style folk-rock-meets-Merseybeat respite of Eveline or the slightly psychedelic Falling.
However, the Weller association prevails, be it the Phil Spector-esque Nothing Matters or the fact the album was recorded at Paul Weller’s studio Black Barn. Legendary Chris Potter (The Clash, The Stones, The Verve) ensures the expanded results maintain a grown up bite.
“Things have developed brilliantly with the new boys,” says Joel. “We believe we’ve so much we can bring in the future. It really does feel very positive.”
Joel Stoker (vocals, guitar), Lucas Crowther (guitar, vocals), Lee Burgess (bass guitar), Kenton Shinn (drums, percussion) and Dean Mumford (keyboard) fire up The Foundry, Sheffield University, on Sunday.