Rialto

Night on Earth

by Kevin Mathews

 

Night on Earth may be Rialto’s sophomore effort, but, in truth, the movers behind this British band have been involved in the Brit-pop music scene for a decade now. Louis Elliot and Jonny Bull started Kinky Machine, which as its name suggested owed a thing or too to the influence of The Kinks. Slightly preceding the mid-‘90s Brit-pop movement (i.e. Blur, Oasis, Elastica . . . um . . . Menswear), Kinky Machine managed a small cult following releasing two albums in the process but due to management and label difficulty would not achieved a fraction of the success its peers would and by 1997 was no more.

Rising from the ashes of Kinky Machine, Elliot and Bull together with Julian Taylor and Anthony Christmas formed Rialto, taking its name from a defunct UK theatre chain. This cinematic theme would inform much of its musical direction as the traces of the soundtrack work of the masters, like Ennio Morricone and John Barry, made themselves felt in Rialto’s music.

cover art

Rialto

Night on Earth

(Koch)

Despite assembling a engaging debut album, Rialto was to encounter the same problems as its predecessor as the band would be dropped by East-West Records just before the release of that eponymous debut. All the more frustrating for the band was the fact that the initial singles (“When We’re Together” and “Untouchable”) had been well received, both commercially and critically. Finally, China Records would release the album in mid-1998 and would ultimately find great success in, of all places, South Korea, where Rialto were received as stars.

With a sartorial splendour and sonic sensibility that recalls Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, Rialto ‘borrows’ heavily from the New Romantics of the 1990s—Duran Duran, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet—albeit with an updated rhythmic foundation. This is especially evident on Night on Earth with the use of drum & bass complements to tracks like “London Crawling” and “Anything Could Happen”. The former features an enchanting chorus grappling as it does with an unrestrained rhythm which highlights its tension and release whilst the latter marries dramatic Phil Spector flourishes with a kitschy disco beat.

Elsewhere, “Anyone Out There?” evokes Duran Duran’s debut album headily, “Catherine Wheel” is a chamber pop nugget buoyed by its John Barry styled arrangement. “Idiot Twin” emphasizes Rialto’s ‘80s electro-pop debt further with a distinct nod towards the Human League. “Shatterproof” is a timeless glam classic dressed in New Romantic clothes and “Three Ring Circus” surprises with a discernible 1960s Bee Gees influence that casts a spell that is almost too gorgeous not to succumb to.

Cruelly ignored in the current scheme of things, Rialto at least demands respect for being anarchic classicists in the best sense and instills a distinct implication of class so sorely absent in this day and age.

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