The Riverboat Gamblers may have come a long way from their days of UNT house parties, but the band still manages to remain true to the raucous they have specialized in for over a decade. Their current offering, “The Wolf You Feed”, is a reassurance after the somewhat confusing release “Underneath the Owl” in 2008, which, while a solid record, was a bit too slow at moments to feel like a true, thoughtfully mindless Gamblers album. Sure, the “Smash/Grab” EP of last year was a hint at the return to the same fun-loving, frantic two minute rawk, but four songs is little more than an empty promise. “The Wolf You Feed” feels like more of an insurance plan, and the songs are definitely there to back it up. This new album is an amalgamation of everything the Gamblers have been heavy-handedly trying to add to the mix, and this time they got it right.
Maybe some of what is right on this album can be attributed to the production team this time around, most notably Grammy Award-winning engineer Stuart Sikes, famed for his work with The White Stripes. This is also the band’s first album since signing with Xtra Mile Recordings, which just recently partnered with Kartel music management last year. With lots of fresh influences, the Gamblers seem to be back with a harder, grittier album, still full of all the catchy’ness their audience thrives on.
The Riverboat Gamblers’ Comedians
Right out of the gate Good Veins brings back the days of “To the Confusion of Our Enemies”. It’s probably the most familiar-feeling song on the album. It’s the type of song made for singer Mike “Teko” Wiebe’s high-energy performances. The listener can almost see him hanging from the stage, mic swinging.
Comedians might give the truest sense of the other element to the Gamblers that makes them so successful: sneaking in lyrics of real substance. The signature sound of Teko’s vocals, dropping each line in a shudder, works well in this song; the opening lines “Wanna hear a joke? Wanna have a laugh? I can be the punch line, laugh at myself, laugh at my past.” Sound convincing and heartbreaking when Teko’s delivery mimics the fake laugh of self-deprecating humor.
Gallows Bird feels low and self-loathing with a Ravonettes vibe, and really nothing like a classic Gambler’s tune. With a beat that plods on like a walk of shame and some interesting guitar work one wouldn’t pin as the Gamblers, it’s different, but it works.
Loser Neck is another song making a statement, this time about being a slave to the proverbial Man. “I’m bored with my uniform” might be the war cry for the new generation. “The blue in my tie to accentuate my eyes. I hope it diverts, I hope it hides the malaise that I feel inside” could have been the “Office Space” mantra if it had come along a few years earlier.
The last piece of the puzzle on this album is Dead Eyes. Completely unexpected, with a sixties vibe with ramped up organ and plenty of tambourine, it proves the Gamblers aren’t to be underestimated. Obviously the boys have aspiration beyond their basic irreverent punk formula. The question will then be what they do with these aspirations; songs like Dead Eyes might alienate some but open up more eyes to a band that has more to offer than ever.
Written by Nicole Banister
OurVinyl | Contributor
Below is “The Wolf You Feed” Teaser Trailer