By: Robyn Bond
In their latest release, The Arkells manage to deliver a well-produced divulgence into a hybrid of 80’s pop and alternative rock. In doing so, they stray far from their more folk/indie rock roots and it seems some of their authenticity as well, falling victim to a barrage of cliché lyrics except for a few diamonds in the rough.
Over the course of listening to this album, one is subject to a whirlwind of different sounds and generic tastings. It seems as though their fifth full-length album displays more of a willingness to experiment with new directions than any previous work. In a sense, the album showcases the group’s ability to pull off different niche sounds. In another sense, it showcases a collection of songs that, as a whole, seem a little incoherent and jumbled.
The album starts off strong with the feel good, drum driven and crowd-jump worthy Hand Me Downs. The song features a charming narrative and will definitely be uplifting for their audience. This is one I’m sure will be an introduction to many a live performance, which the Arkells give very well, by the way. Unfortunately after this strong opening track, it’s a bit of a nosedive. Their attempts to seemingly ironically reproduce some 80’s trends of shout back vocals, slappy production and synth-driven melody. For example, on the pump-up track "People’s Champ" and "Eyes On The Prize" fail to do much but parody songs of a similar sound, parts of a genre they seem to be desperately trying to rehash.
These songs are very predictable and even cringe-worthy at times. A particularly low point is in the bridge of "Eyes On The Prize", featuring call and response “everybody say heyooo” between the lead vocals and a choir of children repeated a number of times. Yikes. Although the chorus motif “keep your eyes on the prize baby!” has a charming and catchy melody, it doesn’t get to shine because of the deafening clichés nested in the rest of the song. "Saturday Night" successfully overshadows "People’s Champ' and "Eye’s on the Prize" as a more originally crafted feel-good pop tune, although the incessant repetition of the chorus makes it a tad bittersweet.
It’s a shame those songs are grouped on an album beside almost completely different songs like "Show Me Don’t Tell Me". One of the most redeeming and well written songs on the album, it is a return to the Arkells authenticity and offers a true breath of emotion. The rolling nature of the instrumentation, effective storytelling, originality of structure and seeming allowance of the melody to carry the song make it a truly exceptional gem on this album. The same goes for "Don’t Be a Stranger", but for it’s own reasons. It features one of the strongest vocal performances and most tasteful examples of mixing on the whole album. The vocal production takes inspiration from Cage The Elephant producing a similar fuzzed out energy and catchiness. The punchy and prominent drums in this song pave the road for energetic and well-placed changes of pace. It is one of the least blatantly predictable songs on the album and shines through the rest. The same can be said for the groovy Company Man, which features a nice surprise of heavier guitar parts accompanying the chorus.
Overall, Rally Cry lacks flow. It seems as though The Arkells dip their toes in a number of ponds, but just a few too many. The band has some serious work to do when cutting the fat on their albums. It is a fun listen and is sure to provide some great additions to their live show arsenal, but as far innovation and comprehensive strength there’s work to be done on the next record.
Favorite tracks: "Show Me Don’t Tell Me", "Hand Me Downs", "Don’t Be A Stranger"
Least favorite tracks: "Relentless", "American Screams", "Peoples Champ", "Eyes On The Prize"