It is written: Anything published about a D.C.-based band garnering national attention even the slightest bit must mention Ian MacKaye and/or his road-paving punk projects Fugazi and Minor Threat. Now that thats out of the way...
U.S. Royalty, an unsigned quartet from the District, released Mirrors on Tuesday. Their first LP and has benefited from some far-flung buzz for good reason. Sometimes gritty, sometimes pretty, Mirrors could feel at home on a college radio station or on a top 40 hit-churning station. U.S. Royalty is not easily pigeonholed a trait that at once develops intrigue and muddles their identity.
In the endlessly senseless task of explaining music via written word, it may help to break Mirrors into a dichotomy between sensitive song and rusty, soul-infused rock. The latter seems like U.S. Royaltys natural state, leaving a desire for more tracks like Give Up the Ghost and The Desert Wont Save You, a distorted opus with nasty riffs that shoots the tequila down to the a song with heavy verve.
Its hard to decide if they sound more comfortable with a sprawling arena guitar riff via Kings of Leon, or Western tumbleweed plucks, both of which collude to form the backbone of Monte Carlo, the bands quasi-single, in which frontman John Thornleys voice meshes with brother Pauls guitar for a Steely Dan-meets-Fleetwood Mac experience.
Then, vexingly, the album takes a turn toward Appalachia on Equestrian. Its new-age folksy (read: Fleet Foxes), but somehow Eighties. U.S. Royalty channels The Cure and New Kids on the Block (Yes, I wrote it) with its crescendo of Ohs before adding a grungy bridge to keep the song honest, but not quite dingy enough to override its catchiness.
For all of U.S. Royaltys strong points, some of Mirrors tiptoes a little too much. Light-footed tracks like Vacation Vacation and Old Flames arent all bad, but seem relatively lazy and boring. And the lyrics are hit or miss throughout the disc: Were just cool kids, living like the good times never end / We just day dream, waste away the stoned out summers end, Thornley sings tritely on Vacation.
Still, Mirrors is overall imaginative and inventive. Listening to it evokes a grab bag of artists and styles Black Rebel Motorcycle Club often surfaces but U.S. Royalty is nonetheless an original that cant be pinned down.
The best part? Its a District band with the potential to accompany MacKayes spot on the local throne.
Artist: U.S. Royalty
2. Hollywood Hollows
3. Monte Carlo
8. Give Up the Ghost
9. The Desert Wont Save You