The New Pornographers, The Dead Weather, Fleetwood Mac—what do these three bands have in common, other than all being made up by gloriously good-looking people (I’m talking to you, Alison Mosshart)? The answer is male-female vocals (special emphasis on the “female” part), which is also part of the reason for why Rival Boys’ full-length album Mutual Feelings of Love is so satisfying.
The three-piece band, which consists of Lee Rose (vocals/bass), Graeme Rose (vocals/guitar), and Sam Sholdice (drums), infuses all of its songs with an aggressive punch of grunge laced with the occasional dance backdrop. But even through the aggressive guitars and heavy bass, Lee Rose’s vocals come through like a steel train—gritty, steady and strong. Then add in a bolster from Graeme Rose’s voice and things start to happen.
The album opener, “Movement,” starts with a reverberating drum set and a melodic guitar met with Lee Rose’s resonant alto. The toe-tapping track grows in a to-and-fro motion, beginning quietly before reaching a chaotic climax, and then recedes back again into a distorted repose.
However, it’s the following track, “Dark Science,” that really showcases Rival Boys’ intensity as a band. Part punk, part dance, the track introduces the dogged nature of Lee and Graeme Rose’s harmonies, which are somewhat rough while still being entirely complementary. It is finally at the bridge of the track where both Lee and Graeme push powerfully through a conglomerate of distorted guitars and a violent bass, their angry voices bleeding into the distortion.
The album takes a quieter turn with “Bow and Arrow” and “React To It.” The latter takes on a delicate melancholic form, Lee and Graeme’s aching voices growing in tension with Graeme’s bright guitar, a mini catharsis happening each time the refrain repeats.
It is this relationship of Lee and Graeme’s harmonies working in tandem with aggressive guitars and a driving percussion that sets up the strength of each track on Mutual Feelings of Love. Though, Lee Rose’s voice is definitely the most compelling force that makes each track such a joy to listen to, especially on “No Selfish Love,” in which Lee’s voices sounds strangely but beautifully hushed, as she croons, “Won’t stop my heart from wanting you.”
The album goes straight back into catchy guitar riffs and propelling melodies for a little bit on the tracks “Recovery,” “Fine Lines,” and “White Light.” However, the album ends solemnly with “Dream of Stones.” The quietest track on the album, “Dream of Stones,” is also the most different as it takes on an acoustic form augmented with a tinge of orchestral strings. While the track starts up with only Lee and Graeme’s solid voices backed by an acoustic guitar, it smoothly burgeons into a gorgeous mesh of grit and quietness.
Mutual Feelings of Love is catchy but still manages to remain tough, an unsuspected mixture that only serves to make the album a refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable listen.
Top Tracks: “Dark Science,” “React To It,” “White Light”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)