Rainbreakers: Face to Face Review

Garage rock is a funny thing. Many people think of it in terms fidelity and proficiency. If a band is noisy and ragged, they’re garage-y. If they’re clean and more technical, they’re something else. But garage is also about energy and striving. It’s about wanting to transcend the noise and lack of skills, but not always being able to. That desire to be better is what makes garage music, like, say Detroit’s The Dirtbombs, so thrilling. But it’s also what makes things challenging for The Rainbreakers on their debut, Face to Face. They’re very talented musicians who don’t need to wield noise like other bands do.

The Rainbreakers pull a lot from the Black Keys, another famous garage band. Specifically, they take a lot of the more soulful, rhythm and blues elements, and, like the Black Keys, play it through a rock and roll filter, meaning upfront guitars, present drums, and not much else. However, the Rainbreakers are at their best when they flip the formula, playing rock and roll music through a soul filter. “Take It or Leave It” is the best example of this. It’s a quiet track, with singer/guitarist Ben Edwards crooning over a gentle, soulful groove, with the drums barely there. It’s straight-up soul, that’s punctuated by short bursts of distorted guitar. It’s a rock song performed by a soul band. The inversion is subtle but important.

The garage aesthetic is one of making the loud and ugly sound beautiful. Soul is about making the beautiful sound sexy. And The Rainmakers are good at making a track sexy. They don’t need much dirt or grit to make a song successful. “Lay It On Me” is practically a disco track that wouldn’t be out of place coming from KC and the Sunshine Band. The Rainbreakers lean into that energy, keeping the guitars funky and Edwards’ vocals clean and clear. There’s not much rock to it, other than the drums and the beautiful harmony vocals, and it makes for a great track.

I am, in no way, a Maroon 5 fan, but I respect that they’re a dance-oriented rock band comfortable in their own pop-loving skin. I can hear that they take what they do seriously and don’t care particularly about being edgy or cool. I’d love to see The Rainbreakers take a page out of that book, and really embrace their funk/soul love without feeling like they need to situate it in the language of garage rock. I have no doubt The Rainbreakers love rock and roll but their more soulful moments are what make them stand out from other bands.

The Review: 7.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Lay It On Me
– On My Knees
– Waiting On You/Moving On
– Take It or Leave It

The Big Hit

– Take It or Leave It

Review by Steven Ovadia

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

Steven Ovadia

Steven Ovadia interviews blues artists about their songwriting process for Working Mojo.

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