The fourth attempt by Londoners The Rifles, None The Wiser, may just show a band at a crossroads in their career. Do they stick to the bog-standard indie rock indebted routes which have served them so well in the past? Or do they forge onwards into their own sound? To put it simply, a bit of both. None The Wiser is a Jekyll and Hyde case amplified and then (mostly) compressed into MP3 format.
Eclectic Eccentric opens with a pulsating racket, the sound of guitar and drums ricocheting amongst one another in a welcome, raucous return. But that is just where the excitement ends. The aforementioned track and a number of its accomplices, including All I Need and Catch Her In The Rye, offer little insight of this band’s potential before reverting to repetitive, mid-tempo renditions of indie rock standards. The musical equivalent of cruising in third gear, if you will. If it feels like you’ve heard these openers before, it’s because you probably have, just under a different name and by a different band.
What becomes apparent as this album wears on, though, is that this is a band not trying to reinvent the wheel, but just enjoying the ride it can give. Early upstart Heebie Jeebies provides a whistlestop tour of all that was marvellously brash about 60’s rock ‘n’ roll, being less than two minutes in length, with an amphetamine tempo and a vintage solo to boot.
Sometimes, it appears, Jekyll and Hyde can work well together too, as on Under and Over, which combines inner-city folk with debauched indie rock in a song at war with itself. A campfire feel with guitars that squeal, and an ingenuity often lacking elsewhere on this album make this track an anthem in the making.
Despite the lack of originality littered throughout this album, None The Wiser succeeds in its’ homage to this band’s influences, and the enthusiasm and energy which is demonstrated in recognising them evokes a nostalgic trip through a much loved record collection.
Away from the tribute act, however, highly singable lyrics and excellent wordplay, as in Shoot From The Lip, (which features the ever so punny “shoot from the lip with a loaded tongue”) offer a glimpse to the heights this band could reach if their sound was a little more ‘off the wall’ than ‘on the ball’. Only time will tell if they’re willing to take the leap.