Album Review: Vulture Kult - "Don't Let Rock n' Roll Ruin Your Life"
Okay, here’s a brief, inside look at the life of a music reviewer (dare I call myself a music journalist?) You get inundated with music. Positively deluged. So much so that you realize early on you won’t be able to get to it all, even if you have a staff of twenty writers. So, one of the skills you need to develop early on is the ability to discern what projects are worth the time you’re going to spend on them.
Generally, this calculation is a combination of a number of different metrics, ranging from reader interest, to scale of the release, to name recognition, to pre-album buzz. Few reviewers will admit it, but personal taste plays a small role in there, too. It’s not a big factor, but it’s nigh impossible to shut it out completely. Sometimes, that personal interest is what directs your mind to give an album a second look in the first place.
Now, how does that interest get triggered? Most promoters, particularly those working with smaller, newer or unsigned acts will include in their accompanying releases the four key letters: R.I.Y.L. “Recommended If You Like.” The bands listed after can make or break a press release.
Normally, the bands are all of a feather. The promoters or labels might list all Gothenburg bands, or all NWOBHM bands, or old ‘80s punk bands or something.
Why am I mentioning this in reference to Vulture Kult? Fugazi, The Stooges, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. Those were four of the bands listed as similar to Vulture Kult’s record “Don’t Let Rock n’ Roll Ruin Your Life.” With the exception of some middle-schooler’s diary about a dream concert, I hesitate to think that those four bands have ever been listed next to each other, ever. This was something I needed to hear.
What Vulture Kult presents to the listener is new millennium rock and roll as a two-piece, similar but different from the sheer noise of this year’s DZ Deathrays album. While it may be impossible to incorporate clear influences from all of those four artists, Vulture Kult tries their damndest to represent their forefathers well.
Where the band excels is in capturing the swing and swagger of true rock and roll without pounding it dead into the ground, then picking it up just to beat it some more. What the Canadians from Saskatoon have bottled in songs like “Vultures From Above” is the essence of heart-pounding, head-nodding rock. It’s a well-kept secret that few others have knowledge of (Wolfmother being another example,) but is unmistakable in execution. This song swings and jives with confidence and bite, just as good rock should.
The mix of influences combined with the springy production lends Vulture Kult a sound that is similar to what it would sound like if Steve Souza sang for Motörhead. The drum cadences of “Avenue H” are swift but not blurred; the guitar riffs blended without being muddy. It’s a sharp sound, one that accentuates notes, refusing to blend into the miasma.
There’s more rock and roll goodness to be had, from the slight punk flavor of “Cyanide Hand Grenades” to the metal-tinged “Electric Medication,” and this rolls on until the album ends in the curiously designed but well-contrasted pieces “Movie of Me” and “Checking Out.” Where the album has just spent twenty-five minutes settling your brain into a catchy rock rhythm, it then winds down with two cuts that are like b-sides from a Pink Floyd album circa 1972. The lounge-y, trippy tunes close out the album on an unexpected but not unpleasant twist.
The knock on Vulture Kult’s new record comes in two parts. The first is that while the album is true to form for rock and roll, it does little to expand and grow the genre. There are those who would suggest that rock has been stretched out like good pizza dough and can’t go any farther, and there’s certainly something to be said for that. Still, this record, while well-orchestrated and arranged, has an awful lot of the same basic musical theme, which makes it difficult to highlight more than a handful of cuts. Secondly, the record is really short. Just when it feels like the album gets some momentum and cohesion, it’s basically over, going from wheels up to wheels down in a little over twenty-five minutes.
Those who pass on Vulture Kult will inevitably dismiss it as ‘just another rock album’ and in truth, that’s fine. After all, Vulture Kult is a rock band, and desires nothing more glamorous in assumption than that. Those with a discerning ear for rock and roll that stays true to the roots while not simply writing the same lyrics over and over again will find that “Don’t Let Rock n’ Roll Ruin Your Life” is a rewarding, if brief, experience. The two-piece may not quite live up to a blend of the listed influences, but they get way more right than they do wrong. Give it a spin if you get a chance, test it out for yourself.