Looking over the typical rubric of Rise Records’ roster, it doesn’t look like the propensity for solid to mediocre metalcore and pop-punk bands has gone away just yet. To their credit, the last few years have seen some attempts at diversification (notably for giving some classic punk bands a new home), but as a label, it’s yet to shed the unfortunate reputation the last few years have built up. That’s why a band like Arlington seems like such a bizarre addition to the roster, building their sound around blues-rock and indie influences that, judging by their singles so far, show a deep appreciation for the genres rather than just superficial stylisation. It makes the label / band combination all the stranger, but if the trio can come up with something good on their debut A Walk Through Jackson County, it might just be the evidence needed that Rise can foster some talent over a wider breadth of genres.
What’s just as surprising is how faithful of a recreation to Arlington’s original vision A Walk Through Jackson County is; there’s little of what could be considered label meddling, and even when there is, it’s never intrusive enough to detract from a young band with some real talent. And on the face of things, that might seem a bit strange, especially when Arlington sonically fall between a pair of bands who’ve been nowhere near as successful in terms of musical management, and yet have found exponentially greater amounts of success despite it – Palaye Royale and Greta Van Fleet. It’s easy to see where it comes from too, with a bouncy, classically-cultivated sound that’s just touched up enough to hit the appropriate modern touchstones, but the difference is that Arlington actually sound like they know what they’re doing. They’re nowhere near as sloppy as the former at keeping together even the most basic of melodies, nor are they exclusively dependent on their musical ancestors as the latter, and while it’s pretty sad that such basic levels of competency are what’s putting this band in pole position, it can’t be denied that it works. The likes of Ride Out and Mud drip with the radio-ready southern groove of The Black Keys or early Kings Of Leon, while Motion and Halo show further adeptness at slowing the pace for richer ballads and giving Tyler Benko’s voice and chance to dip into a more expressive register.
All things considered, it’s not exactly mind-blowing, but Arlington already have a confidence about them that gets the ball rolling without breaking that momentum. There’s enough versatility to prevent it getting boring despite the great familiarity of the overall sound, and the focus on Channing Peake’s bass over a more direct, riff-driven sound adds a roundness to this album that’s a lot more interesting to pick the details out from. Of course, that’s partly down to the production, and even though the bluesy rollicks remain intact for the most part on tracks like Don’t Mind and What They Say, it can sometimes feel a bit cleaner than it really should, and on a track like Damn Shame, it’s one of the instances where the thinness in the guitars can be to its detriment and it can lack in body to reach the same level of other tracks here. The fact that no song on this album could really be called bad is an incredibly good sign, especially for a debut, but a handful of times, the feeling that a second draft could’ve benefited them is undeniable.
It all leaves Arlington feeling like a band with potential that’s yet to be refined; it’s there, and they make good use of it at times, but a bit more work could see them producing something truly great. That’s nothing to be disappointed about at this stage though, especially when A Walk Through Jackson County is already laying down some remarkably tight foundations for Arlington to go forward. It’s a take on blues-rock that doesn’t sound dated or rusted over, nor is it bogged down too greatly by contemporary trends, and considering how much of a rare beast that is, the praise is duly deserved.
For fans of: Kings Of Leon, The White Stripes, The Black Keys
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘A Walk Through Jackson County’ by Arlington is out now on Rise Records.