By The Rubens
The Rubens have been making waves in their native Australia for a few years now, having released their self-titled debut on home shores to much acclaim in 2012. Since then they've spent time nurturing a fan base in the wider world - the result of which is Hoops, their first collection of songs to officially land in the UK.
Hoops is an album very much a product of its time, infused with a self-aware rock'n' roll drawl that occupies the currently vacant territory somewhere between late stage Arctic Monkeys and the similarly radio friendly, polished work a beefed up Black Keys started giving us after Brothers.
This is appropriate enough, considering that The Rubens are literally a band of brothers - Sam Margin leads the charge on vocals and guitar, flanked by his brothers Elliot and Zaac. They take up duties on keyboards and lead guitar respectively, with friends William Zeglis and Scott Baldwin handling the bass and drums. It's that rhythm section which kicks off Hoops in style, as a pounding beat introduces opener Hallelujah. 'You got the power to think and a heart with a beat but you're using just one' Margin sings, setting a tone that continues throughout the record: one that's celebratory, yet cautious and somehow unsatisfied.
Thematically, Hoops is a pretty dark listen - what else would you expect with song titles like Battles, The Fool and catchy blues rock centrepiece Cut Me Loose - but there is also soulful optimism in tunes such as Things About To Change ('there's lots of things to love about me baby'). The stomping choruses and bluesy licks that permeate Hoops can't hide its darkness for long, but as the album clocks in at a digestible 35 minutes, they don't have to, and playback feels like pleasure rather than obligation.
As 2016 moves forward many are still wary and wondering if their rock'n' roll heroes will survive it, but with Hoops, The Rubens have crafted an album with enough intrigue and solid swagger to leave the genre in safe hands for a while longer.
Hoops is released on May 20th through Warner Bros Records.