The Wolf You Feed
Riverboat Gamblers don’t seem to have it in them to make a bad record. Songs that straddle the part of your brain that surfs away on a good melody and the dusty, dark corner that yearns for just the right guitar solo or drum roll to inspire you to climb the nearest speaker stack and take a trust dive into a roomful of strangers — such has been the artistry of the Gamblers for 15 years now! On their latest, The Wolf You Feed, it’s more of the same, yet nothing repetitive.
Album opener “Good Veins” is a worthy successor to “True Crime” off of To the Confusion of Our Enemies — the 2006 album that first caused the band to grab ahold of my ears and not let up since — and its hard-driving, snotty, and cheeky burst of energy kicks the volume up from the get-go. Right on its steady rockin’ boot heels are the hyper charged “Bite My Tongue” and the Alkaline Trio-y groove “Comedians,” a song about the often-times sad lives of artists who constantly subject themselves to drunken hecklers in dive bars around the world.
Right here in these first three songs, a virgin fan will be offered a perfect sampling of the smash-up between punk rock, new wave, and good old rock ‘n’ roll that exists within every Riverboat Gambler composition. “Soliloquy” and “Blue Ghosts” are a pair of big, bad-ass guitar rockers that will surely rub fans in all the right places.
These Austin, Texas dudes don’t just rehash what’s worked before, they take risks — like the slow burning blues “epic,” “Gallows Bird” (at 5:42 it’s the band’s longest song to date), which not only bears some sexy guitar riffs and a good bit of piano, but finds vocalist Mike Weibe sounding like early Iggy Pop (think “The Passenger”). It’s a dark, slinky highlight that stands out like a red sock in a white laundry load.
“Heart Conditions” has a slightly ska riff that plays around throughout the chorus, and a playful melody that doesn’t really sound like anything the band has done before. Speaking of steps into the unknown, boldly flirting with clean country guitar tones, “Loser Neck” sings with a campfire chorus of I’m bored/ with my uniform/ how ’bout you?. Unplug the amps on this one and you’d have yourself an introspective folk song.
On this — their sixth full-length — buried beneath the controlled chaos candy that they have created are beautifully poetic nuggets that hint at a band that’s tired of swimming in the same pool and is ready to paddle out into the ocean. Riverboat Gamblers should not be penned in. If ever there was a band that deserves room to splash around, it’s these guys.
Riverboat Gamblers: www.theriverboatgamblers.com