The Rifles - Roundhouse, London
By releasing their debut album in the same year as a little-known indie band called the Arctic Monkeys, The Rifles were put into a musical subgenre which, for want of a better technical phrase, had people describing them as ‘kind of like the Arctic Monkeys’. However while this label has proved to be the metaphorical black spot for many of the bands in this category, such as Milburn, The Rifles have gone from strength to strength. This is all the more impressive given that their second album, Great Escape, was only released earlier this year, almost three years after their debut album No Love Lost and neither of them troubled the UK Top 20. Why, I hear you ask, have they survived? Well I'll put you out of your misery. It’s because they are astonishingly good live.
That being said, a Rifles gig is not for the faint-hearted or for any indie kid who cares how their hair looks, as full pints of beer make frequent flights through the air tonight even before The Rifles have played a note. When things do get going with Science In Violence kicking off proceedings, the sedate and almost picturesque surroundings of the Roundhouse seem at odds with the pub brawl that breaks out in the 3,000 capacity crowd. Seconds after lead singer Joel Stoker has sung the song’s end bridge – “The world is ours and ours alone” – with the kind of passion and ferocity of a general leading his army into war can only dream about, the band explode straight into She’s Got Standards and from then on, the pace is unrelenting.
The main set consisted of a one old, one new format which while unoriginal, maintained the energy and intensity of the gig through some muted reactions to second album tracks like Sometimes and Out In The Past. Although this could be more to do with the crowd catching their breath as the band literally rifle, pun intended, through their 70-minute set with only the acoustic section of For The Meantime and Spend A Lifetime slowing down the pace. It’s an impressively tight set with the band letting the tracks do the talking without the use of live gimmicks like extended solos, and it’s easy to see why their music has brought comparisons with The Jam with three-minute rock gems like Repeated Offender and The Great Escape littered throughout the set.
It’s possibly that comparison that has contributed to The Rifles success with the crowd tonight surprisingly older than your average indie rock crowd, but that’s just it, The Rifles aren’t a typical indie rock band. They might fit within that description with their recorded music but they’re an altogether different beast live. Perhaps it’s the presence of more mullets per square metre in the crowd than found in the ocean, but the combination of Joel’s brash vocals with the heavier, unrefined guitar and drum sounds makes The Rifles sound like lad rock at its most raw and brilliant. Those 40-year-olds in the crowd have finally found a band to give them their teenage kicks.
Two of the main highlights of the set both come in the encore. First was the sing along to Narrow Minded Social Club with the now highly-inebriated crowd still able to chant along to perfection, even managing to get the pause in the chorus in the right place. Despite the lack of typical gig closer Local Boy, tonight promoted to the main set closer, The Rifles’ next single The General proved a more than worthy replacement with its pounding drum beat and heavy bass riffs. It’s got a darker tone than anything The Rifles have done before, and the reaction it receives tonight show that the band are on to a winner.
Overall if coming out of a gig beer-soaked, bruised and sweaty sounds like an ideal night, then a Rifles gig is the place to be. Even if that doesn’t sound like an ideal night and you instead prefer listening to a band on the top of their game, then a Rifles gig is the place to be. Just maybe choose a seated ticket.
*Photos by Sara Rust who had her bag and camera strap broken during this gig, but carried on regardless. That's dedication.