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Eleventh Dream Day

Riot Now!

Rating: 2.3/5.0

Label: Thrill Jockey

Eleventh Dream Day albums, as sparse as they seem to come as of late, have always lacked pretensions like any true punk rockers should. The subtle gloss applied to some of their mid-90s oeuvre was about as gentrified as it got. Riot Now! is as stripped-down in its production value as EDD’s debut, Prairie School Freakout. An homage to their roots? Perhaps. Like Prairie, the Chicago quartet – Rick Rizzo, Janet Beveridge Bean, Mark Greenberg and Doug McCombs – recorded Riot Now! on the adrenaline of a live session with minimal tweaking. The result is a raw explosion of power chords and casual bursts of noise solos. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for the band, but at this late in the game, does Riot Now! serve any purpose?

You can’t deny Riot Now!’s most admirable quality – passion. It overflows in Rizzo’s smarmy drawl; in the on-the-mark performances; in the abrupt codas and tempo changes in songs like “Damned Tree.” Though what the album reveals in heart it lacks in imagination. Experimentation is toned to a minimum. The most elusive moment comes during “Satellite” when the band deviates into an obtuse Sonic Youth-style noise jam but aborts just before the squealing, meandering cacophony fully flexes its muscle. Maybe EDD’s goal with Riot Now! was to refine and simplify. Sadly, the fare is too standard and without charisma for anything to stand out. “Divining For Water” plods along like thousands of other songs with the same has-been melody. The ugly, glammy proto-punk of “Cold Steel Grey” sounds out of its element amid the album’s dominating reserved selections – and speaking of, “Away With Words” and “That’s What’s Coming” offer some of the most melancholy and tender moments they’ve produced. Suffice it to say, EDD never had the most distinct sound, but for the first time in their career – and in spite of an assorted setlist – it shows.

EDD’s energy has always been ripe for a rock club more so than a record. Even with its live recording techniques, that part of the magic – that immediacy, that grandiosity – is lost on Riot Now! What might surface as a head banging, blood pumping night out is reduced to anemia here. EDD would probably benefit with a left-brained production approach that can enhance a dying breed of no-frills rock. “If you try to tell it straight/ Your point will come too late,” Rizzo ironically belts out on “Divining For Water,” advice he and EDD should take heed of on their next outing. Until then, cult fans might enjoy Riot Now!, but the uninformed won’t be impressed with something so unoriginal and outdated.

by Jory Spadea

Key Tracks: Damned Tree

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