Personnel: Joel Stoker, Luke Crowther (vocals, guitars, harmonica, percussion); Lee Burgess (guitars, background vocals); Dean Mumford (keyboards); Kenton Shinn (drums).
Audio Mixers: Chris Potter ; Jamie Bell ; Greg Marriott.
Recording information: Wired Strings, Air Edel.
Recorded at Paul Weller's Black Barn Studios and endorsed by the Modfather himself, the sleeve notes of the Rifles' third studio album, Freedom Run, suggests the London five-piece have stuck rigidly to the same lad rock formula which has seen them replace Ocean Colour Scene as the Jam legend's mod revivalists of choice. However, perhaps inspired by a change in personnel (Garda's Lee Burgess and Kenton Shinn have taken over from founding members Grant Marsh and Rob Pyne), and the presence of the Verve producer Chris Potter, the follow-up to 2009's The Great Escape has slightly toned down their trademark attitude and bravado in favor of a gentler, and some might say slightly romantic, indie pop sound which proves that their claims of progression weren't just hollow talk. The sweeping strings, jangly Brit-pop guitars, and triumphant brass sections on lead single "Tangled Up in Love" recall the late-'90s heyday of Divine Comedy, "Nothing Matters" is a yearning slice of orchestral pop whose spacious percussion, orchestral flourishes, and aching harmonies produce an enchanting Spector-ish Wall of Sound, while the band embrace '60s psychedelia with encouraging results on the Hendrix-inspired "Interlude," the sprawling acid rock atmospherics of "Little Boy Blue (Human Needs)," and the Stone Roses-esque "Falling." Less inspiring are the retreads into more familiar territory such as the Merseybeat pastiche "Eveline," the formulaic, '60s-tinged pop of "Cry Baby," and the plodding boogie rock of "Love Is a Key," which veers dangerously close to three-chord Status Quo territory. These quintessential Rifles offerings may appease those deterred by the album's unexpected wistful nature, but Freedom Run's inherent charm has the potential to elevate the band into the big league, regardless of how many longterm fans stay on board or jump ship. ~ Jon O'Brien