Reviews The Riverboat Gamblers The Wolf You Feed

The Riverboat Gamblers

The Wolf You Feed

The Riverboat Gamblers are an established band. So much so that it surprised me to see that The Wolf You Feed is just their fifth full-length, following last year’s Smash/Grab EP. With that history, they’ve jumped styles and labels, going unfettered rock to slick anthems, and successfully straddling the lines between punk, hard rock, and garage. The Wolf You Feed sees the band going for somewhere in the middle, but not quite grasping it.

It starts out well, with both “Good Veins” and “Bite My Tongue” showing the ability to craft a catchy, poppy number but still keeping the production a bit on the rougher side, leaving it to rely on its heart rather than giving it a shiny coat in production. The band’s bread-and-butter has long been their ability to straddle the lines between hard rock, punk, and garage, without feeling derivative or formulaic. These two songs keep that success going, though the guitars are definitely focused more on the concise (i.e. punk and garage) side of things. Where things start to get off track is “Comedians.” While the intent of the song is personal, with a press-ready quote from singer Mike Wiebe about the nature of stage performers, the song just doesn’t work. It takes an epic classic rock approach, but the chorus of “Comedians/ ha ha ha” just sounds ridiculous (and not in a funny way). It might have worked if it just dialled into the chorus once, but the refrain takes over the song and, as the boredom sets in, the record loses its momentum. There’s another upbeat number sandwiched afterward in “Soliloquy,” but that quickly gives way to the stomping and repetitive rhythms of “Gallows Bird,” which aims at gritty ballad, but instead feels too polished and it never really grips as Wiebe’s delivery feels too clean for the harshness of the song. “Blue Ghosts” delivers shades of High Tension Wires but, followed by the mediocrity of “Loser Neck” and the closer “Eviction Notice”—a song with some strong melodic points, but is ultimately dragged down by repetition—the record can never find a steady pace or feel, and while it’s got its moments, it just never finds a strong, appealing identity.

Riverboat Gamblers are a band I respect and they put on an amazing live show but, while their continued development is well-intentioned, The Wolf You Feed ultimately feels uneven, too crisp, and a too repetitive. A few missed notes or a bit of feedback would serve some of the songs here well, as their content is dark but the delivery comes across all too clean.

6.5 / 10Loren
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