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 411mania » Music » Album Reviews

The Rifles - None the Wiser Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 02.06.2014

My 2014 Reviews:
Ed Harcourt - Time of Dust [8.0]
Warpaint - Warpaint [9.0]
Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues [7.0]
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Wanderlust [9.0]
Mogwai - Raves Tapes [4.0]
Young the Giant - Mind Over Matter [6.0]
You Me At Six - Cavalier Youth [5.5]
Gaslight Anthem - The B-Sides [6.5]
Of Mice and Men - Restoring Force [8.0]
Within Temptation - Hyrda [8.5]
Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow [8.0]

The Rifles are:
Joel Stoker – vocals, guitar
Lucas Crowther – guitar
Rob Pyne – bass
Grant Marsh – drums
Dean Mumford - keyboard

The RiflesNone the Wiser

Track listing:
1. Minute Mile
2. Heebie Jeebies
3. Go Lucky
4. All I Need
5. You Win Some
6. Catch Her in the Rye
7. The Hardest Place to Find Me
8. Shoot From the Lip
9. Eclectic Eccentric
10. Under and Over
Running time: 32:19

None the Wiser is album number four from indie rock outfit The Rifles. The Rifles are a band that has offered fairly middling indie music for the best part of a decade now; they've been so good as to surpass being anything other than background music, and they've been so bad as to be deserving of criticism. Their chart success is, again, middling, and their appeal is in such a state of infinite purgatory that their existence occasionally fails to even register on the music industry. But here they are, continuing to chug along making happy-go-lucky indie rock music, regardless of commercial or critical success. Eight years on None the Wiser, the band sounds incredibly comfortable in their own skin, content to just make the music that they make without necessarily pushing any boundaries or challenging any pre-conceived notions anyone might have about the band. That's not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but at some point surely the band has to either sink or swim. None the Wiser is fight or flight.

The record opens with the decidedly inoffensive “Minute Mile” that fails to either turn the listen off nor leave any sort of lasting impression. It's three and a half minutes but feels considerably longer and that's anything but a promising start. Luckily the record sparks into life with the unassumingly sixties rockabilly sound of two-minute rocker “Heebie Jeebies.” Just the title is far and away the most outlandish thing the band has done in a number of years, but the tracks itself is a barn-burner, likely to inspire all sorts of careless dancing and riotous toing-and-froing on any number of small to mid-sized venues the band is likely to please. It's a crowd-pleaser, no doubt, and it carries an urgency the band's previous studio records have always lacked.

Album number four sees two original members of the band return and they sound like they're having fun again. The happy-go-lucky sensibility of their tunes was somewhat lacking on previous record, but it's back and in full flow on the upbeat “Go Lucky.” The band have frequently drawn inspirations by sixties stalwarts the Beatles, but this particularly tracks sounds a bit more Beach Boys. It doesn't take itself quite so seriously and it concludes with a joyous Lucas Crowther on guitar, blending his simple riffs with harmonious choruses and the vocal of tunesman Joel Stoker. “All I Need” sounds like another gorgeous Sunday afternoon out in the summer doing nothing, the only problem is there's is actually nothing doing. It's chilled out vibe contradicts it's downbeat lyrical themes but it's not a bad song per se, just an instantly forgettable one, new country influences and all. The repetitive mid-tempo abandon of “You Win Some” drifts by having also failed to leave its mark and leads into the awfully-titled “Catch Her in the Rye,” a song that packs less of a punch and more of a disrespectful open-handed slap to the face. It's a wake-up call. Lyrically, it's more inventive and teasing, and while the verses leave you wanting more, the chorus is an absolute belter and one of the band's best, four albums in.

“The Hardest Place to Find Me” is an interesting homage to the band's folk influences, including Bob Dylan, and generally celebrates all things sixties but does so in a way that makes you want to go and listen to a sixties record instead of keep listening to this record. Stoker's on form here with a melancholy vocal with a regretful tone enunciating the song's troubled lyrics. “Shoot From the Lip” continues the lyrical wordplay with the clever “shoot from the lip / with a loaded tongue,” but it's a rare moment of ingenuity that stands out amongst a sea of drab and uninspired wordplay littered throughout the rest of the record. Again, the chorus is pretty good and this one does stick with you, but not for very long. “Eclectic Eccentric” is the penultimate track and sees the band make more of a racket that we might have become accustomed too, but it's a harmless racket – teenagers playing loud music in the flat upstairs in a Tottenham apartment block as opposed to the ones looting Dixons down the road. The record closes on a strong note, the campfire vibe of “Under and Over” is a surefire indie anthem of the summer even if the contrast of full force indie rock and the band's folk sensibilities are a bit jarring at first. In terms of song-writing, the album peaks at the end with this anthemic ode to late nights spent drinking liquour and smoking funny fags by firelight throughout the summer. It's singalong-inducing though, and that's something that cannot be said for too many takes from None the Wiser. With “Under and Over,” the Rifles saved the best for last.

The Rifles - “Heebie Jeebies”

The 411: With None the Wiser, the Rifles were in need of a breakout record, or at least one that would garner them a few new fans. This new record will undoubtedly appeal to the cult-like fans the band already possesses but will fail to connect on a larger scale. There's very little to separate the band from the middling indie-rock outfits that are so easily accessible in 2014 and unfortunately the Rifles have failed to show the song-writing chops that at least has given similar bands stand out hits. None the Wiser does feature a couple of stand out moments; album-closing “Under and Over” and the infectious “Heebie Jeebies” are obvious standouts but such moments of brilliance are few and far between. There's a number of decent tracks on offer and at just over half an hour, the record doesn't overstay it's welcome, but these are backhanded compliments provided for lack of anything truly remarkable to say about the record. The Rifles remain a band unable to live up to their potential despite an obvious ear for a tune.
Final Score:  5.0   [ Not So Good ]  legend


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