Royal Bangs Bring Knox Music Into the 21st Century

Royal Bangs, Let It Beep (Audio Eagle)

Local releases rarely come with as much anticipation as this sophomore release from Royal Bangs. The band's earned the buzz—We Breed Champions, from 2006, was an energetic noise-pop debut, and with three years of rigourous touring (along with a couple of Bonnaroo appearances and a significant lineup change) behind them, Let It Beep has long been expected to be a big step forward.

The new album—the band's first with new bassist Henry Gibson—lives up to those expectations, and more. The clattering synth chaos of Champions is still represented, especially on "1993" and "Gorilla King," but the band's sound has been refined and streamlined into shimmering, dance-oriented power pop. The group's songwriting has developed into its most potent tool—"Poison Control," "My Car Is Haunted," and "Shit Xmas" all stand out as minor classics of bittersweet pop. It's not wholly original, following in the footsteps of countless New Wave- and post-punk-inspired groups of the last seven or eight years, and incorporating some of the indie funk of TV on the Radio. What the album lacks in originality, though, it more than makes up for with sheer accomplishment—with Let It Beep, Royal Bangs have almost single-handedly brought Knoxville music out of the shadow of the 1990s and into the 21st century.