Words: Simon Opie // The Rock Of Travolta - 'Fine Lines' (UK Release: 14 March '11)
If The Rock Of Travolta didn't exist I would certainly have to invent them to support my Radiohead vs. Mogwai rivalry theory. Protégés of Radiohead at the start of their career in 2001 and creators of Post-Rock instrumental soundscapes, The Rock Of Travolta gained a reputation as a fearsome live act and a leading light on the Oxford music scene.
Then came a substantial personnel change which could have triggered the end of the band, but resulted instead in a regrouping in 2006. 'Fine Lines', their third album, was mostly recorded in 2007 and has seemingly taken a long time to reach a release.
The album represents a shift in approach with more subtle shapes and colours in the songs as compared with the first two albums - 'My Band's Better Than Yours' and 'Uluru', both recently re-released in digital format. Here the cello of Jennie Bates is well to the fore and the shifting dynamics throw up elements of interplay beyond the twin guitar rock-out of early songs such as 'Clean My Boots' and 'I Love It When A Plan Comes Together'. That's not to say it's a radical change but it is a definite development of their musical voice.
Tracks such as 'Last March Of The Acolytes' and 'No Pressure' have an elegance and almost sadness that give the whole album a wistful, very English air. Somewhat like work of Belbury Poly and other releases of the Ghost Box Music label - especially on 'Godamn Remote' and 'Happy With What You're Given'. It's a brave direction to take and as the album closer and excellent 'Something's Wrong With The TV Generation' plays out I find myself hoping that it will find some measure of success.
Intelligent and thoughtful music is not so common but it's extremely welcome, particularly when it's at times intense and soulful too. It seems to me that the brilliance of bands like Mogwai comes from not taking themselves too seriously and I guess that The Rock Of Travolta play for fun, too, with hugely enjoyable results.
Purchase 'Fine Lines' at your local record store, iTunes, Amazon etc. Download 'Last March Of The Acolytes' for free at therockoftravolta.com.