You’d think with a bona fide smash like Place Your Hands to their name that Reef would have had the same longevity as their contemporaries like Feeder or the Manic Street Preachers. Indeed, the Glastonbury quarter came at the peak of first-wave Britrock, and with a song like that could go toe to toe with the biggest from those acts, Reef’s fortunes could’ve kept going. And sure, their follow-up singles would go on to chart through the late-‘90s – and rather highly at that, in some cases – but none remained as ingrained in the public consciousness as Place Your Hands would. It might explain why the band’s last album was released in 2000; momentum became crippled, and though plenty of touring since reforming in 2010 has been a factor, they’re still considered a nostalgia act through and through.
And honestly, it’s incredibly easy to see why, especially going off new album Revelation – this is a band with little to offer anymore beyond stale radio pablum and cooled-down classic rock and Britpop tones, making for an album that comes and goes without a trace. Even with guitarist Jesse Wood now among their ranks (son of the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood), there’s precious little indicative of a classic flair here; Reef simply push for a sound that hasn’t aged delicately whatsoever, and it prevents Revelation from being an exciting or fiery return in the slightest.
But even then, there’s the faintest gnawing feeling that there could potentially be something here, at least latently. When they channel a bluesy, Led Zeppelin-esque peel on the title track and Ball And Chain, there is a sufficient amount of smolder and intensity that comes from a thicker guitar tone, and Gary Stringer clearly pushes his vocals into a state of contorted, whiskey-soaked rawness. Granted, it’s nothing that countless bands haven’t been doing for decades now, but it’s best to take what you can get here, and these are good moments among a sea of mediocre filler. And that’s hardly an exaggeration either, especially when the vast majority of Revelation limps along in a middle-aged stupor that never wants to just mercifully end. And that may seem a tad hyperbolic, but for all the pretensions towards a more raucous, “laddy” image that accompanied Reef in their heyday, the least they could do is try to keep some of that energy here. But, no – Revelation’s murky, middle-of-the-road driving-rock is seen to be a suitable alternative, even when it desperately struggles to muster a necessary catchy hook or tone that could’ve potentially mitigated the damage. As such, what’s on offer is primarily a number of Britpop relics with little to no defining factors today, from How I Got Over and Darling Be Home Soon with their structureless bongos and backing choirs to feel like truncated Sympathy For The Devil offshoots, to flavourless, slow-paced snoozers like Don’t Go Changing Your Mind and First Mistake, to the duet with Sheryl Crow on My Sweet Love, seemingly the defining moment for the reserved MOR direction that this album heads in.
As for lyrics, there’s nothing interesting here to speak of beyond a sub-Stereophonics level of storytelling and emotional detail, really capping off the fact that Revelation has barely anything going for it on any level. No one really expected much anyway – this is a band from a scene to whom time has not be kind to as it is – but with barely anything of note to really latch on to, Reef find themselves in a precarious position even as far as a legacy act goes. Place Your Hands still takes a prime spot within their canon, but what good is that when there’s hardly anything else to fill in the gaps?
For fans of: Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Feeder
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Revelation’ by Reef is released on 4th May on earMUSIC.