Album Review : Romans | – = + (Less is More)

11745575_1002984773067710_2802301091806094299_nIt took them three years to finally release a successor to ‘Cravatte Nere’ (EP), which was already a statement to Romans‘ appreciation for riff wizardy.  “-=+” (read Less Is More) is now out and the question is : was it worth the wait?

Romans are a four piece alternative rock band from Birmingham in the UK, who have chosen the best time to release their exciting debut album ‘-=+’ because it does fit perfectly with the season. Timing is everything! It’s however not just a summer hype(ish) record that we’ll hide in the drawer at the end of the glorious season and we’ll tell you why.

The record opens smoothly with with Richard, whose gradually increasing energy already showcases Romans‘ talent for creating upbeat sounds, but most of all, they don’t lie when they describe their band as “WE LIKE RIFFS”. ‘Less is More’ is then a collection of bouncy riffs that can only make you want to dance or lie on the grass on a sunny Sunday. We caught ourselves thinking about some of their british counterparts such as Mallory Knox and Lower Than Atlantis at times, during Gio for instance, which isn’t a bad thing; only a reminder that british rock has a strong, audible identity. One of the strengths of this band probably resides in the vocals, which are particularly vibrant and on point. Several tracks such as Mary, Leigh or Bet function as mood raisers, which is something you can easily understand while commuting to work on a Monday morning; there’s great material to start a day with. Of course we have Paul, the traditional power ballad, characteristic of rock albums, which is a good track for slowing things down. It marks an efficient break in the sequence, however it isn’t one we would listen to out of its context or at least not on a regular basis.

These are songs that have the potential to build excellent live performances, we’re thinking of the outro of Philip, for example, and the many group vocals you can found here and there, which will certainly delight the public.

Lyrically, we wouldn’t say they’re raising the most engaging themes and we’re more exploring these guys’ universe, from songs speaking about the band, to others apparently serenading a woman (Mary), but this lightness and accessibility is quite enjoyable to be fair. After all, less is more, right? Is seems like Romans do not want to overload the listener with complex layers of profound and serious subjects and would rather provide everyone with entertaining and relaxing songs they would enjoy pretty much anytime they need to let off some steam. Simplicity makes this record easy to listen to and brings the ease we all need from time to time.

Besides, if you take a look at the imagery around the album, Romans keep things sober and minimal without revealing too much. Each song has an actual name (we mean a human one.) We have Richard, Mary, Leigh, and a few others, building the tracklist of the 10-song release. It teased our curiosity, which is why we paid more attention to the lyrics and yes, each one of these tracks actually comes with a story but keeps some kind of mystery alive. A concept album? Not quite sure about it. With that being said, we find it appreciable to see artists still making great effort to build original material in the abundance of (mostly) boring offerings hundreds of so-called-bands provide us with every day. While ‘Less is More’ isn’t a masterpiece, it’s an honourable debut, which shows that Romans have enough talent and a potential to go even further and build something bigger in the future.

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7/10

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Romans – ‘Less is More’
Released: July 24, 2015 (self-release)

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