What’s Rock and Roll? review | The Reytons answer their own question on sophomore album

★★★★☆

Released fully independently, The Reytons’ second album, What’s Rock and Roll?, might be imitative of others in parts, but has plenty of guitar-heavy strength in its own right, writes Greg Wetherall.

The Reytons

First, let’s address the elephant… no, scrap that. Let’s address the Arctic Monkeys in the room. The Reytons don’t so much wrap their indie in Arctic MonkeysWhatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not gift paper as deliver it to your door with an Alex Turner impressionist saying, “Don’t believe the hype”.

Musically, the four-piece from Rotherham light their wick on 00s’ indie – Arctic Monkeys pre-Humbug, to be precise. But if you can find it in your heart (and ears) to place the pastiche to one side, you’ll find a fine guitar band lurking beneath the surface.

The group follow the garage rock clatter of well-received 2021 debut, Kids off the Estate, with this self-funded sophomore effort, What’s Rock and Roll? As a declaration of their ambition, the album has been trailed by a music video trilogy (‘Cash in Hand and Fake IDs’, ‘Fading’ and ‘One More Reason’) linked by a single narrative directed by the band’s frontman and songwriter, Jonny Yerrell. It’s not only the sign of a creative mind in fine fettle, but an inspiring DIY ethos. Nothing is off limits.

The Reytons

It’s in keeping with The Reytons’ reputation that What’s Rock and Roll? is chockful of scathing observations on vapid social trends and more, replete with a gallery of rogues elbowing for attention. Opener ‘15 Minutes In The Algorithm’ sets the tone. Repurposing Andy Warhol’s misattributed “15 Minutes of Fame” quote for generation Gen Z, Yerrell locks his sights on the fame hungry in an age of Instagram, TikTok, and Love Island.

Atop fuzzed-up guitars and toms slapped so hard that drummer Jamie Todd should be charged with GBH, Yerrell brings red-hot intensity straight out of the gate. “Let’s all be famous / Let’s run our mouth to the camera…We don’t need talent or passion / Just cash-in the pay,” he snarls, before pleading, “Tell me when it’s over / We’ll come bounding out from the underground”.

Although Joe O’Brien’s staccato guitar bears more than a passing resemblance to AM’s ‘Teddy Picker’, Yerrell elevates the familiar with a story of vain desperados seeking cheap fixes for perceived physical imperfections in ‘Istanbul’. “Born in ’96 / You’ve had more Botox than your birthdays, that’s for sure / She’s living hand to mouth / Takes a journey south / To book a cheaper flight for double Ds abroad”.

Likewise, ‘Monthly Subscription’ sees Yerrell provide a withering view from the bridge of the Only Fans phenomenon. “She’s gone and bought her four-bedroom detached / Without a mortgage / She paid it in cash / Check out her bio / Read the description / She’s done it all with her monthly subscription”, he says, while the chorus declares matters from the protagonist’s perspective: “She said, ‘Love is overrated / I don’t need to wait / I have a plan / I only need my fans’”. It’s memorable, on point, and bloody brilliant.

What’s Rock and Roll? The Reytons

What’s Rock and Roll? album cover.

In fact, it’s on songs such as ‘Istanbul’ and ‘Monthly Subscription’ where the music and the lyric deliver perfect tens. The band bring the fire and Yerrell provides his wittiest words. There are other highlights too. ‘Love In Transaction’ is a delightful barre chord blitz dissecting the relationship between a sugar daddy and his lover, while ‘Little Bastards’ is an explosive tirade at children raised in broken homes. ‘Cash in Hand and Fake IDs’, meanwhile, is a Britpop anthem three decades on.

With the sublime comes the ordinary, however. For all its bluster, ‘Avalanche’ is so meat and potatoes indie that there’s a landfill somewhere seeking its presence. Same applies to ‘WMC’ and ‘Uninvited’: two further instances of bland guitar choons buried beneath a high tempo flurry. And there are instances across the album where the choruses can’t match the potency of the verses (cf. ‘Fading’).

So where do The Reytons fit in today’s indie scene? There’s no escaping that their DNA is Monkey-fied to the point they’d be laughed out of the room if they went for a paternity test. But muffle the moans for a moment: they’re offering sanctuary for those feeling disconnected from Turner and Co’s progression into lounge lizard sophisticates. There’s a place for it.

The Reytons are LADbible indie, then. Music for the masses that is snappy, colloquial, and easy to digest. ‘What’s Rock and Roll?’ they ask on album number two. Across twelve turbocharged tracks, you’ll find a pretty compelling answer.

What’s Rock and Roll? is out 20 January 2023.


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