Eleventh Dream Day - Riot Now - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Eleventh Dream Day - Riot Now

by Steve Rhodes Rating:4.5 Release Date:2011-03-14

Chicago-based Eleventh Dream Day have been ploughing a continuous but largely unnoticed path for more than 20 years. Led throughout by vocalists/guitarists Rick Rizzo and Janet Bean and sometime Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs, they have produced occasional moments of delight in their angular guitar US-college sound over the course of their career and have cranked up the volume on their 10th release, Riot Now.

Such an album title would suggest a clarion call to rebellion and agitation in the lyrics, though there is little evidence here. Opener 'Damned Tree' perhaps sums up why the band have been overlooked in the past. Distorted but bored vocals are supplemented by rather dull riffs. Only when the pace picks up halfway through the song and Janet's Bikini Kill vocal shrill is introduced is life added to a rather plodding song. But then the momentum is ruined by a over-indulgent guitar solo. There is little progression on 'Cold Steel Grey'. Though the vocals perk up a little, more reminiscent of The Clean, the song remains lifeless and forgettable.

This pattern seems to repeat itself throughout the album. 'Satellite', 'Divining for Water' and 'Maybe This Time', add some different touches, such as organ, swirling guitars and dual, direct vocals, but they ultimately lack drive and none are memorable. Where EDD try to inject direction and a sense of purpose, they sadly fail. 'Sonic Reactor' attempts to blend Black Sabbath, 60s garage bands and 'Death Valley 69' era Sonic Youth. However, it barely lifts itself from a leaden pace and once again relies on an over-long and dull guitar solo.

Where EDD try not to live up to the album title is ironically where they are at their strongest. 'That's What's Coming' is soothing, hypnotic and often chant-like. Similar to New Zealand's Ghostplane with added touches of US Americana, EDD have produced a beautiful tune full of hooks and melody that explores a territory more akin to Low. 'Away with Words' is further toned down. It is a sparse, building song that slowly adds instrumentation into a rewarding finale. Rick's gravelly tones work perfectly with Janet's dreamy vocals particularly on the repeated line, "All your signs and all your words, where are they now?'. A tune which veers towards Galaxie 500 and particularly Gregor Samsa, it is a deliriously sumptuous song that shows what EDD are capable of.

As with previous releases, EDD have produced a wildly inconsistent album with small pockets of greatness. Thankfully, there are moments on the album which are a match for 'Flutter' (off Ursa Major) and the outstanding 'Stalled Parade' (off Stalled Parade), but there is little to wow audiences new to the band, nor anything to suggest this album will be inspiration or a soundtrack to the political situation in North Africa or the Middle East. Riot Now is possibly one of the most misleading titles for an album, and should bring a charge under the Trade Descriptions Act. A Minor Kerfuffle may have been more apt.

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