A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing New Riot’s single release Live Fast, Die Young, which in my mind was a triumph in terms of the great balance the single had between Pop Punk mixed with top notch and very well thought out Brass riffs. The song was very anthemic in terms of excellent uplifting sounds coupled together with no nonsense party-till-you-drop lyrics. The whole ensemble was a solid representation of what in my mind a great Ska Punk band should sound like, but I was searching for something within the band that made them stand out from the rest other than a party anthem that would play on stereos at every middle American college house party going. I didn’t have to wait long to find that certain something though, as the Raising the Stakes E.P goes that extra mile turning New Riot into a three dimensional band, exuding intelligence of the musical and lyrical kind.
The E.P kicks off with Land of Opportunity, a song that is clearly representative of the bands travels on tour. Having played in pretty much every Northern, Western and European territory existing today, I can only imagine that there are plenty more tracks to come from this band about experiences over various continents. The song focuses heavily on ‘The American Dream’, and I’m not talking about the Of Mice and Men American Dream of the great depression, and certainly not the picket fence suburban lifestyle that the working man aspires to be a part of, I’m talking about the dream of the home grown British band making a firm stamp overseas. Having toured with the likes of Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto, you can only envisage the sense of the big world opening up for these six boys from the South East of England as they crusade state to state, and town to town, ‘the nights ahead, sharing motel beds’. There is no fakery about this experience as the band themselves have lived it, giving this track an authentication that fans will welcome.
No Pop Punk inspired band would be complete without songs about girls, New Found Glory did it, Blink 182 certainly did it, so to quote Ron Burgundy, “its science”. Girl from Hell is as good a demonstration of sticking to what Pop Punk bands of the nineties and two thousands know how to write. In a male dominating genre it’s inevitable that we boys get hung up on you girls, and this tongue-in-cheek examination of the female species proves just that. This track is nothing ground breaking on the subject, but everyone over the age of thirteen can relate to a story of boy meets girl, so in the grand scheme of everything it’s just as relevant now as the songs of Pop Punk bands gone by. I’m a massive fan of the Doo Wop inspired vocal chorus sung by the whole band in this track, it’s a testament to the bands vast dynamic, and united with the comically recorded lyric of ‘Bitch’ in the second verse, puts the musical cherry on top of this already tasty Ska Punk cake. Moving onto the penultimate track of the E.P, The Better Days featuring the female vocal styling’s of Katy Jackson. The tune immediately commences a grove you can’t do anything but dance to. With great use of Bass Drum and syncopated claps it places an image of what I imagine the bands performance is like, engaging, authoritive and more importantly, fun.
If I have any queries with this track it’s the almost hidden use of Katy Jackson. You can clearly hear her performance from 2:54 ring out the last note with excellent skill and harmony, but I would have loved to of heard her vocally throughout the track in a kind of Sonny and Cher back and forth motif. Bands like A Day To Remember and Deaf Havana in the past have used this idea to great success. Female vocals in songs like If It Means A lot to You and White Lies have given those tracks that extra dynamic and quality that puts them on the edge of brilliant, and I wish this track did just the same. The E.P on the whole is real nostalgia fest for fans of Ska Punk like myself, reminding me of those younger days cranking up the volume on albums like Hello Rockview, and more recently Keasbey Nights. It lacks a certain attitude that the old school bands used to emit in waves, but the real trait of this E.P is its intelligence musically and vocally. In the single review of Live Fast, Die Young I speculated whether we would see a deeper vocal side to New Riot, and they managed to do that in shed loads on a five track E.P, which can be hard to construct with such little space. Not only did they manage to do that, but they exceeded my expectations musically; every musician in the band has a solid part to play, and is given the opportunity to contribute excellent musicianship and skill, these guys have a real love for Brass infused Pop Punk and it shows.
This is an E.P that acts like a quality full length album, at no point during my recreational listening do I feel the need to skip any track, or fast forward any useless piece of writing. If I could advise you to listen to anything in the coming months it would be this E.P, it won’t blow your mind, change the government or start a civil revolution, but it will let you witness six quality musicians who know how to write great get-up-and-go music.
By Oli Bateman