It’s still unclear why The Rifles decided to play acoustically, with no drummer, and it’s very much unclear why the guitarist dresses like Dave from Chas and Dave, but somehow they pulled off an entertaining set.
Date: November 28, 2012
Venue: Rescue Rooms
It’s odd that a band for whom an electric guitar riff is at the beating heart of their Mod-like genus should want to rip that out and go unplugged.
But that’s what Chingford 5-piece – reduced to a 3-piece tonight, with no drummer – The Rifles have done on this tour. They’ve eschewed their primary instincts, dallied from their guitar-driven trajectory and switched off.
Comparisons to The Jam and The Ordinary Boys usually flow from reviewers fingers when faced with the task of describing this band, but, tonight at least, their stripped bare set unveils a sweetly disparate sound that’s catchy, beatific and refreshingly intimate.
Joel Stroker’s reverb-heavy vocals benefit from the attribute of simplicity, his lyrics galvanised by a freedom to drift without the super-charged buzz of electricity, even if it’s not strictly unplugged, with a piano and guitar still whirring gently behind him.
But they’ve slipped a little melancholy into their tuneful, brazen choruses, and where once there was a cocksure bravado, an earnest, almost poetic sincerity has been allowed to absorb into their songs, including the anthemic Local Boy, perhaps still their best work.
And with these new incarnations, they’ve proved that less is in fact more.