Royal Bangs – Flux Outside
Though perhaps no other moment on the record can equal the frenetic, harried energy of the leadoff track, Flux Outside, the third LP from Knoxville’s Royal Bangs, barrels relentlessly straight through to its finish. “Grass Helmet,” the aforementioned leadoff, peaks the record early with its stuttering percussion, screeching sound effects and emphatic vocals. It’s a slap in the face of all navel-gazing, nonchalant delivery, and it’s one the trio performs without faltering. We’ll be spent before they are.
It’s as if the group elected to seek out and incorporate into Flux Outside every style of pop that’s high-energy and loud (except thrash; there’s no thrash). Second track “Fireball,” for example, is ’80s power-anthem-reminiscent; think Manheim Steamroller and Queen’s bizarre lovechild. A happy meshing of distorted synth, sunny guitar and upbeat piano, the trio backs vocalist Ryan Schaefer’s high voice with the shrill and the frantic as the album moves forward (“Triccs”), putting shrieking guitars in the little gaps between verses. Likewise, “Bull Elk” folds almost comically effervescent piano into screeching guitar and earnest gang vocals.
Though “Bad News, Strange Luck” – the record’s other standout – slows the pace of the album a bit before launching into a hair metal/video game freakout, the lull doesn’t last long. How can you listen to something like this without remembering Mario’s quest to save Princess Peach? The song proves epic as it transforms into a classic rock anthem and back again.
Even as this musical marathon nears its close, the percussion weirdness of “TV Tree” and the emotional balladeering of “Dim Chamber” over precise pop guitar work keep the downslope of Flux Outside something worthy of complete listening.
Though the record’s relentless pace can get exhausting, the listeners fatigue far before the band does. A nuanced, well-formed exercise in absolutely unfettered kineticism, Flux Outside is a tireless testament to what music can be when its makers are wide-eyed and well rested.