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Riverboat Gamblers

'The Wolf You Feed' (Volcom)

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., June 1, 2012

Chaotic Discs

Riverboat Gamblers

The Wolf You Feed (Volcom)

Divisive previous platter, 2009's Underneath the Owl, peaked the Riverboat Gamblers' organic evolution from Tim Kerr-produced Texas punks to national prize. Where the ex-Big Boys/Poison 13 guitarist controlled the splatter of the Denton émigrés' eponymous 2001 debut and brought raw power to Something To Crow About two years later, the Austin quintet's pair of succeeding albums for Volcom polished the mosh – check "The Biz Loves Sluts" on To the Confusion of Our Enemies in 2006. To many, Owl then sanded off too much of the punk in favor of pop. Maybe so, but the audience it gained the Gamblers now encounters a proverbial Wolf in sheep's clothing. Taut, toned guitars meet tendon-snapping rhythms and acrobatic frontman Mike Wiebe's almost talking punk blues – mocking, self-deprecating, unyielding in their needling efficacy. Two-minute opener "Good Veins," with its jackboot charge and killer chorus ("I've got venom, you've got good veins") topples into "Bite My Tongue," which draws blood with equal ease ("Good lord, now did you really say that?"), Wiebe – billed as "Rookie Sensation" in the credits, but a stone-cold figurehead by now – perfectly in sync via his wounded and lashing lyrical delivery throughout. Third hitter "Comedians" clears bases with stainless steel guitar/bass/drums latticework building in unison to Wiebe's sardonic punch line. Batting cleanup, "Soliloquy" pounds another perfect pitch of chant and chank over the center field wall. That's where Wolf pauses for a breath, "Gallows Bird" beating an epic dirge. Side two doesn't bristle with quite the same electricity but its measured beatdown (the bruising "Dead Eyes") lends Wolf a welcome gravitas leavened by the stabbing "Heart Conditions" and almost skipping punk-up of closer "Eviction Notice." Touchstones – the descending riff in the opener, bass break on the second track, and clarion guitar of "Comedians" – act as sonic wet Willies. "G.F.F.G." on the LP cover stands for "Gamblers forever, forever Gamblers." Take the hint. (Thu., 11:45pm, the Parish.)

****

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