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Album Feature

Posted on November 24, 2007 at 3:27 PM

THE RABBLE - The Battle's Almost Over... {Filthy Lucre} The third album is always a tricky proposition for a band. It's the album that proves whether there is depth beyond the band's formative years. It's the album that should show a marked progression without compromising its original ideals and direction. Basically, it's the album that proves whether a band should be regarded with respect or is dismissed as a passing fad that was once fun, but now sounds contrived.
Thankfully, for these three fellas from New Zealand's North Island, the third album represents a resounding, triumphant success. The band takes the spirit of youthful exuberance that made the debut album such a cracker, adds some depth and musical experimentation. From the mix comes an album that is focused, insistent and mature whilst retaining all the Punk Rock energy, vitriolic delivery and petulant dynamics that have always made this band one of the best in its field.
The album's artwork states the band's case even before any music is played: vocalist/drummer Rupe walks alone but indomitable into a seemingly post-apocalypse wasteland armed with a solitary guitar case in hand. Once the CD starts, it's clear that THE RABBLE is more than able to let the music speak for itself, and damn the naysayers.
The opening track, 'Seeking' is one of many highlights. It starts with a guitar intro that would not sound out of place on latter GUN CLUB albums. Once the band makes its presence known, an anthemic chorus comes from nowhere stating the band's disdain of apathy and of its desire to push forward.
Fifteen tracks follow ranging in subject matter from the joy of youth, the spirit of Punk Rock, life experience and, best of all, some political insight and opinion with the tracks 'Dead End' and, more specifically, 'Sick And Tired'. This lyrical direction has often been lacking on the band's previous material and it's good to see the band addressing the subject without resorting to any of the recognised Punk Rock clichés.
Musically, the spectre of SOCIAL DISTORTION pervades through much of the album. It's not a blatant rip-off; just well executed songs ('Devils Highway' in particular) that owe more to SD in spirit than anything the band has previously recorded. This is mixed with a classic UK Punk sound that is somewhere between the melodic structure of 'Nobody's Heroes' era STIFF LITTLE FINGERS and the musical muscle and defiance of the 'Time Was Right' album by THE PARTISANS. Fuse those three influences together and the result could be retrogressive; here THE RABBLE makes it fresh and vibrant.
Add to that instruments as diverse as acoustic guitar, bagpipes (on the fist-throwing, exultant title track), mandolin, double bass and even a harpsichord and you are left with something that every third album should establish for the band in question: it's own sound and identity. Ultimately, that's what THE RABBLE has achieved with this record - a sound that is the band's own and, given the strength of this album, it's a formidable, tumultuous, pulsating Punk Rock beat that's as addictive as it is enjoyable.
This album also sees the recording debut of the new line-up. Chazz now handles all the guitar parts with stunning aplomb, be it bittersweet solos such as on the closing 'City Of Sin' or clinical rhythm playing as demonstrated on the sublime ascending/descending Pistolian riffing of 'Start Again'. What may be the most telling line-up change is new bassist Jamie, whose tight, dextrous playing fills out the sound and augments it with an inflammable intensity that had been missing. The blistering bass breakdown in 'Sick and Tired' ably demonstrates this.
The album does have its low points though. Both 'Bored' and 'Zombies' are a little generic. They are not necessarily bad tracks; both are energetic and ably played, they just fail to stand up to the overwhelming strength of the other 14 tracks present on the album.
Jim Seigel of Boston's infamous Outpost mixed the album which could explain some of the general depth and weight behind the music ('New Generation' has a massive sound) but for a great mix to work, the raw ingredients have to be there - and THE RABBLE has them in abundance. Mark, from THE UNSEEN, does a guest vocal on 'This World Is Dead' which is a bit of a scoop for THE RABBLE and the juxtaposition of different voices works well.
And this is released on the band's own DIY label. While others have jumped ship and signed to a major, THE RABBLE remains in control of its own destiny. Given the quality of the record - including artwork, song structure, musicianship and production - the album as a whole should be cited as something approaching a minor-classic.
This is a coming-of-age record for the band, one that sees it transcend the boundaries of routine but good Punk Rock and move into the territory reserved for genre-defining innovators.

Categories: New Zealand