By Mark Jenkins
Friday, March 29, 2013
On first listen, the Virginmarys’ new album, “King of Conflict,” hits so hard it sounds almost American made. The British band unembarrassedly packs its songs with bluesy swagger, thumping rhythms and arena-rock riffs. But the trio also proves its Britishness with pop flourishes, streamlined arrangements and lyrics that sometimes go beyond expressions of adolescent lust and pique.
One thing that separates the Virginmarys from other British rock upstarts is that the band has road-tested its act. Although “King of Conflict” is the group’s debut long-player, it was preceded by four mini-albums and six years of touring. The hard-won prowess of singer-guitarist Ally Dickaty and his cohorts is evident on the seven-minute “Ends Don’t Mend,” which was clearly designed as a set-closing rave-up. Yet the album doesn’t go for a live-in-the-studio sound; tracks such as “Dead Man’s Shoes” balance jumpy vitality with melodic finesse.
The drawback of the Virginmarys’ adherence to its classic-rock template is that “King of Conflict” sounds sort of familiar. There are no startling innovations or idiosyncratic moments. Instead, the album makes its case with vigor and earnestness. When “Just a Ride” barks, “You lied, you lied, you liar,” it’s clear that Dickaty is not just posing as an angry young man.