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The Riverboat Gamblers - The Wolf You Feed

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


The Riverboat Gamblers

The Wolf You Feed

Since I first heard their 2006 release To The Confusion Of Our Enemies, the Denton, Texas outfit Riverboat Gamblers have been a band constantly on the top of my list of current favorites, both for their energetic rock-fueled punk and their unpredictable live shows, which find Gamblers frontman Mike Wiebe spending as much time in the crowd and hanging from the literal rafters (and balconies, and railings, and furniture, etc.) of any venue he plays in.

From their tours in Detroit, to countless performances in their homeland for SXSW, to a stint on the Vans Warped Tour, to Riot Fest, this is a band I've actively sought out whenever and wherever they've performed, matching labelmates Valient Thorr (seriously, Volcom Records has the market cornered for great live bands) for an intense live show that can only be labeled a spectacle.

In 2012, the band is releasing The Wolf You Feed, their first full-length since 2009's Underneath The Owl, and it seems that band has been hoarding their energy in anticipation of the recording of this record, as well as tapping some of Texas' other rock elite (Mark Ryan of the Mind Spiders and Marked Men, as well as Sean Kirkpatrich of The Paper Chase) in order to bring forth a blast of rock power that was well worth the wait.

Riverboat Gamblers

©Nicole Lucas

A good portion of real estate on the record is offered up for the Gamblers fare that the band is best known and most loved for: the assault of high energy punk rock that caters to Wiebe's frenetic live show, solidly backed by a wall of relentless rock. These are songs that reach out, grab you by the face and maintain a steady grip until their end. "Good Veins" and "Bite My Tongue" are two explosive tracks that open up the record, assembling a solid rock foundation that is repeatedly revisited throughout the course of the record, as on Soliloquy" and "Blue Ghosts."

But the album does nothing to rest on its well-established and powerful laurels. The Wolf You Feed also offers up plenty of addictive, well-crafted songs that present the more complex songcrafting skills of the band as well. With the plodding, bluesy feel of "Gallow Bird," the band offers up a darker, more restrained offering from the Gamblers than we're used to, with Wiebe recasting himself in a dark, southern-fried vein. It's a track that may hint at the influence of the album's producer, Grammy-Award winning engineer Stuart Sikes, known for his work with the White Stripes.

It's not the only example of the band's continued evolution and exploration of sound, more complex musical compositions that don't compromise their energy. "Loser Neck" had a bit of grungy jangle and a bit of a twang without ever dropping its rock mantle, "Dead Eyes" is a drifting tune that employs garage influenced sound melded with slick production that makes it simultaneously slick and a bit fuzzed out, and "Eviction Notice," the closer on The Wolf You Feed, is a choppy bit of chunky punk, with a "whoooo" ing chorus that raps the record up on a note that solidly uplifting and positive.

At a current release rate of one LP every three years, The Wolf You Feed is one that will do well to hold me over until 2015 brings their next offer, and while I hope that the Gamblers don't make me wait that long, as long as they continue their incessant touring, providing ample opportunities to catch them live, it's a fair and decent compromise. The band is equal parts energetic punk a live action, and when they next gamble their way through your town, you'd do well to bear witness to one of the greatest live bands ever.

Released May 22, 2012

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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