Royal Bangs | Flux Outside | Review

Knoxville, Tennessee indie trio Royal Bangs will release their third LP Flux Outside March 29th on Glassnote Records. It’s not everyday that an album like this lands on the desk. Sounds like psychedelic prog-pop, maybe…they prefer to call it “easy shred computer jam.” Whatever it is, the musicianship is incredibly tight, the sound intricate and full. Loaded with mesmerizing instrumentation and synth-heavy driven rhythm, it is out there, yet upbeat and intriguingly listenable, hypnotic even.

The opening track “Grass Helmet” hits the ground running and epitomizes the musical themes of the album: resonant, busy, hustling, unique, and with keen attention to detail—from the rhythmic hold-down of drummer Chris Rusk right down to each little resonant guitar and keyboard note—some time and thought were put into this release. Speaking of Flux Outside, Glassnote president Daniel Glass has said "We feel next year's album and tour will be one of the most exciting releases worldwide."

“Fireball” bounces along a thumping line of upbeat synthetic bass and drums sprung from a synth-a-swirl/noise intro as Ryan Schaefer vocally beckons and guitarist Sam Stratton interjects with a mother lode of technical noodling. The drums are hard, the vocals plead and howl. This song wants to be your best friend, and well, there’s no reason not to accept. It is loyal till the end.

Flux Outside was mixed by David Fridmann (who’s produced eight of the last nine Flaming Lips releases, as well as albums for MGMT and Tapes ‘n Tapes among others)—to give you a baseline for the production caliber. On the songwriting side, these guys essentially pack way more notes and sounds into a song than you’d normally find in the indie realm, and it’s fucking glorious.

Stratton’s guitar work on “Silver Steps” is simply exquisite, paralleling a bass line littered with Schaefer’s twinkling piano. “Bad News, Strange Luck” and “Bull Elk” both, at times reek of early (Peter Gabriel era) Genesis, musically. The former is a sort of mini epic, starting with slow, sullen vocals against a backdrop of hazy, floating synthesizer and launching into fast and spastic keyboard lines (“Supper’s Ready”) and drums that eventually shift into cheery resolve, while the latter comes in with driving drums and bass recalling the rhythm of “Watcher of the Skies.”

Although themes of lost love blanket many of the songs, it hardly gets depressing or dismal, as the lyrics stay governed by the music. In “Back Then It Was Different” Schaefer sings “I waited all summer for you…You pluck some boy from school up in the Alps/brought him home fixed to your hip/covering your fangs with your lips/I know you don’t recall that we were friends/drinking on the pier in the spring/pick pocketing tourists for rent… before you had money and class/remember when your white clothes were black/Oh, my sweetest love…I wanted you so badly then…” amidst bold piano chords and squealing synthesizer. It’s as if Schaefer has loved and lost and is okay with it, as it’s provided inspiration for an amazing gang of songs. 2011 will surely be a big year for Royal Bangs.

Flux Outside can be purchased at your local record store as well as on the Royal Bangs website and ITunes.

Don’t miss them live at a venue near you.