The Rifles - 'The Rifles Unplugged Album: Recorded at Abbey Road Studios'

Nick Roberts reviews The Rifles new album, 'The Rifles Unplugged Album: Recorded at Abbey Road Studios' featuring a selection of The Rifles classic songs from albums, 'None The Wiser', 'Great Escape', 'Freedom Run', 'No Love Lost' and latest album 'Big Life' as well as an exclusive new track making up 16 songs in total.

The Rifles have been making waves on the indie-rock scene since their debut album release in the summer of 2006, 'No Love Lost'. Like many before them, members of the band found themselves compelled to form a band after seeing Oasis perform. This influence is noticeable throughout their previous releases without falling into the often tripped trap of Oasis-Mimicry, the group instead keeps an interest in an over-saturated genre through a healthy dose of New Romantic ideology mixed into a more classic indie high impact rhythm.

In the last 10 years since the the band shared their first release, The Rifles have honed their art and formed a dedicated fan base, and now as a gift to these fans we look at the last decades worth of material and reimagined both the hits and rough diamonds in a new light with 'The Rifles Unplugged Album: Recorded At Abbey Road Studios'.
This reimagining gives particular interest in several tracks which suggest an half-explored concept to look into the roots of individual songs and refine them into a purer form of that genre. This is most noticeable in 'Local boy' and 'Rock the Boat'. The former gains a new energy in the new unplugged format - turning what is one of their most known songs from a familiar Manchester-Indie hit into something which could easily have been recorded from the radio onto a cassette tape by a teenager with a Flock of Seagulls haircut, a new and pleasant vision for the song.

'Rock the Boat' then takes a significantly different path through delving deeper into the noticeable reggae dub influences of the track. Whilst the original showed its influence in the use of a phased out guitar effect and jaunty 3rd beat chord emphasis, the unplugged edition introduces a horn section and a piano, both of which bringing a new life and meaning to the the track through the clarity of the vocals and the melancholic horn harmony. Whilst the original felt at times lacking something in its simplicity, the simplicity of this new version has purpose and definition.

There are many tracks on the album which to a first-time listener would feel difficult to imagine as anything other than its new incarnation. This especially applies to 'Out In the Past', 'You Win Some' and 'Coming Home', all of which are heavily reminiscent of American folk in their fresh instrumentation and subtle changes to the melodies. These changes whilst often subtle, bring enough of change to the song to have next to nothing to suggest the original genre beyond the distinctive vocal tone of Joel Stoker - who despite this difference in tone is very suited to the different style.

Abbey Road Studio also does a lot to bring everything together, the building itself serving as another member, through opting for the one take unplugged recording the whole album feels as if it is being played live and exclusively for the listener. This presence is granted through the natural reverb of the rooms which have had so many great musicians in them before, and will have many more yet. This is only improved by the occasional moments where you can hear the band moving in the background between and during songs, achieving all of the charms of a chiseled live acoustic set without having to leave the house.
There is also a lot of credit to be given to the Rifles Choir - a 30 piece fan group who feature on 3 of the tracks and bring a joy to the album, reminiscent of a singalong happening with the local heroes in a watering hole somewhere on a warm night in London. Which is probably not far from the truth, other than the warmth.

All in all the album is a treat for both first-time listeners and returning fans, as each and every track can both stand up on its own as an unplugged piece or as a reimagined nostalgia hit. The Rifles have raised the bar with this release, showing that their songs have the writing chops behind them to fare just as well (if not better) in this stripped back form as well as catchy indie hits. Words of Nick Roberts

Tour Dates
May 2017
12th - Gorilla, Manchester
13th -Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
17th - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
18th - The Tunnels, Aberdeen
19th - Sage Two, Gateshead
20th - Crescent, York
23rd - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
24th - The Y Theatre, Leicester
25th - The Bullingdon Oxford
27th - Assembly Hall, Islington

June 2017
1st - Empire, Belfast
2nd - Workman's Club, Dublin
Tickets can be purchased here; .