Like Royal Blood’s previous albums, Typhoons is short and to the point. Granted there are only two tracks longer than four minutes in length, but the songs have a new dynamic thanks to a more eclectic spread of instrumentation into the mixes, such as the electronic opening on ‘Million and One.’ There is a sense that ‘Typhoons’ is more mature in feel, and it feels like a lockdown album. The lyrics are noticeably darker and tackle more mature themes around mental health and addiction, particularly on the title track:
“Coz all these chemicals, running through my veins, they don’t kill the cause, they just numb the pain.”
“My thoughts becoming parasites, that live to keep me terrified.”
The final track, ‘All we Have is Now’ takes a sombre tone, evoking some of the typical tropes of healing and impermanence of feelings, “All we have is now, so just let it go.” A clear departure from the usual bravado and noise that come with Royal Blood, however lyrics such as, “No one makes it out alive,” and, “If there’s no God to meet us, don’t be scared,” are ringing with cliché and difficult to connect with in the context of the rest of the album.
Conversely, ‘Boilermaker’ is a song named after a cocktail, and was the teaser single that hyped the album release. The mark of Josh Homme is unmistakeable on the track, the dirty guitar and sleazy groove are drunken and staggering and offer an excellent match of styles that lean towards the heavier side of the band.
While the album is still very much a celebration of chunky guitar noise with expressive drum parts, ‘Either You Want it,’ is a standout song from the list, the interweaving of the drum groove and bass riff create an irregular feel, despite the song staying in regular 4/4 time, also the use of effects on the drum kit and backing keys add a mild 60s psychedelic element to the track that adds more colour to the track.
In this regard, Royal Blood have reached the top of their game with ‘Typhoons,’ the songs are better evolved versions of the first album, with more time in the game, and working with the best in the business – producer Paul Epworth has five Grammies – the production on the album might be described as manually perfected, the sound is certainly highly controlled.
One downside to having rock music sound so polished is that the tracks can tend to homogenise in your ears when listening to the full album back-to-back. The songs have a patchwork quality to them, where it feels like separate sound packets and ideas have been thrown together into a blender to see what sticks. Each packet takes form in a cool riff, or an interesting drum fill, and the vocals feel very much part of the sonic puzzle, meaning that the lyrics tend not to stand out on their own, which some listeners may find alienating if they are hoping for a clear sense of a deeper meaning or bigger picture from ‘Typhoons.’
The band are telling their story through a blend of unique two-piece power and a controlled aggression which is their strong point, and somethign that has demostrably improved over time. At first glance, this can seem like quite a limited vein, in the form of the same old shred music from two highly capable rock musicians, however, it appears more that the boys have elected for a more fragmented approach to song writing and album formation, it is clearly not designed to be enjoyed in one long sitting, instead, short and potent bursts that fit well into curated playlists by fans and streaming platforms alike.
The songs are perhaps deliberately segmented in nature, as a way of trying to bring a straight up rock sound to younger ears in a streaming dominated age, the video for ‘Typhoons’ is indicative of this. The best way to relate to this style perhaps is on a more rhythmic, guttural level. Ultimately this band are meant to be heard live, and the relatable element of Royal Blood is the intensely cohesive partnership that Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher have built upon year on year.
Selfishly, I am delighted by this album because it shows that riffs can still drive songs and cool drum fills are still possible on a big record. Every time I give the tracks another listen, I find myself bobbing and thrashing along, drumming on the table and making a scene in the local coffee shop. It is a winner for instrumental live performance, guitar music generally, and shows that interesting and satisfying songs can still be made this way at the highest level, with the live audience in mind.
Listen to Typhoons.
Keep up with Royal Blood.