The Family Rain is:
William Walter – vocals, bass
Ollie Walter – guitar
Timothy Walter – drums
The Family Rain – Under the Volcano
2. Trust Me... I'm a Genius
3. Feel Better (FRANK)
4. Don't Waste Your Time
5. Reason to Die
7. On My Back
8. Pushing It
10. All the Best
Running time: 34:13
The Family Rain as a band is an interesting concept. No one would have been surprised if they'd have buckled under the not-so-subtle hype machine powered by indie media outlets such as NME, Pitchfork and the like, for a band of this nature is only going to be heard through word of mouth in such circles at this point. But there's not much of 2014 in their sound whatsoever, preferring, dirty, gritty, Libertines-esque rock and roll ver the full-proof modern indie rock stylings of many of their contemporaries. Debut outing Under the Volcano was recorded in a month at Berlin's famous Hansa Studio, where artists as inspiring as David Bowie, U2 and Iggy Pop made some of their most important records. The studio was often known as The Great Hall by the Wall because it was situated directly opposite the Berlin Wall. British artists have such a profound history with the place, and they don't come much more British than the Family Rain and Under the Volcano is a debut record that, if it were still standing, would likely have blown the old Berlin wall to pieces single-handedly.
Brothers William, Ollie and Tim set their stall out early and it's clear from the outset what this record is all about – it's a straight-up English blues rock record and it's an effective one to boot. There are obvious influences from the likes of Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, and you can tell that the bnad may have picked up a trick or two from artists they've spent the last couple of years touring with, such as Jake Bugg and Miles Kane, but the overall result is a sound that doesn't sound like it belongs in the present day. Vocalist William Walter takes inspiration from many seminal rock 'n' roll frontmen of the late seventies and eighties and the guitar licks are often as sleazy as you could ever wish for. The album benefits from its low-key production – the band could have spent a fortune in Abbey Road piecing this together but the effects wouldn't have been the same, nowhere near it.
Gritty though the record undeniably is, there's times when you feel that some of these tracks were written with an arena setting in mind, never more so than on the lead single “Feel Better (FRANK),” it's contrasting upbeat melody and melancholy lyricism fighting one another in an unwinnable battle for supremacy that manifests in a mammoth shout along chorus of “And it's supposed to make me feel better / Well it's supposed to make me feel alright!” Caution isn't just thrown to the wind, it's swept up in an hurricane of swirling guitars and raucous drums, unrelenting in their pursuit of the next fix. Under the Volcano is that fix. At time's the production of Jim Abbiss (Kasabian) is more of a hinderance than an asset as he seeks to find a killer riff that won't just get large audiences swooning but all will also find airtime on Radio 1, but more often than not the record sounds masterfully organic. There are other acts who have found success with such a sound – The Black Keys are obviously massive right now – but there's surely room for one more bluesy guitar band in the industry and on this evidence, the Family Rain have a shot of laying a claim.
On “Don't Waste Your Time On Me,” the band sounds ridiculously huge, brazenly swaggering to the forefront of the scene as it's crunching riffs eat up the audience dozens at a time. Walter's inherent shrill bludgeons the listener in the most beautifully violent of ways. “Reasons to Die” takes the sleaze of modern Arctic Monkeys and the lyrical wit of the early-Arctic Monkeys and throws the two together for a juggernaut of a blues belter. “Binocular” is another catchy number that inspires images of early Oasis when they were still trying to be the Beatles, but where some see an Oasis, others see a mirage. It's not all plain sailing on album number one, as the croon becomes a grating whine on later tracks. Lyrically, there's a couple of cringeworthy moments (“I'm always on watch / But I'm never on time,”) and this serves to remind you that there are a whole host of bands that have attempted to take the crown inspired by 80s hedonism and moulded by 21st century White Stripes stylistics. It's undoubtedly a difficult formula to perfect, and many have started promisingly only to fade away. The Family Rain have definitely started promisingly, but there's rookie errors nonetheless.
Under the Volcano is clearly a confident debut though, with the band racing through 11 tracks in a little over half an hour and far more often than not, delivering on the hype. NME has selected them as one of their hype bands of the year for a reason, and there's clearly promise being delivered on here. “On My Back,” the aforementioned (FRANK)” and the impressive “Trust Me... I'm a Genius” are unquestionably the record's stand-outs, made all the more admirable by the fact that the record rarely falters. If there's a complaint to be made, it's that the album rarely mixes up the pace and tempo of its sound and it feels like after thirty-five minutes, you're more than familiar with The Family Rain and what they do in the sense that there's something all too safe and a little bit predictable about the record. It's a stretch to say the record grows tiresome, but not too argue that the initial excitement of “Carnival” wears off by the time “Vulpicide” closes.
The Family Rain - “Feel Better (FRANK)”
The 411: There's work to do yet, for sure, but Under the Volcano largely delivers for a band making its debut amongst a lot of well-hyped indie rock darlings all looking to make the same lasting impression with initial outings. There's certainly a bunch of cracking anthems on display here, and a vocal that solidly holds it all together while simultaneously letting the music build around it. With any such artist though, one must proceed with caution and bear in mind that for every Arctic Monkeys success story, there's dozens of others who have fallen by the wayside. In that sense the Walters brothers may benefit long-term in finding a sound that is completely their own, but for now putting out belting rock anthems of this ilk will not only suffice, but also please a good number of people who going for the latest band to shout about. There's a lot of shouting here, and most of it serves a purpose, so Under the Volcano can be considered a job well done.