12 May 2015
Risk Ray - Thanks For Trying
Welcome to another round of cover roulette! The image above here jumped out during a look on the internet a while ago, but due to various issues I have neglected to actually get the blog finished. Well, that is changing today! This album is released by American punk combo Risk Ray; from what I can find out about the band, they were formed out of the ashes of three other bands - Dead End Dropouts, The Heartless and Fretblanket. They have recently lost a singer (I got this wrong first time - thanks to the band for this, hate it when I get things wrong - Eddie) and they are also trying to mash up the west coast and east coast US punk sounds with some UK indie rock to make their own sound. The main reason for the blog is that I think the cover is the right level of strange for this listener to find out what they sound like, so it is time for the music to speak for itself.
Starting off the album is "Push You Back" which has a sound that is not too distant from Rufio and The Get Up Kids, with a hint of Comeback Kid in there as well. This anti-bully anthem has a lot of feedback in the mix, almost to a level that will make Jesus & The Mary Chain wonder who has been half inching their sound-tech. It does sound a bit confusing at first, but it does make sense after a few listens - feedback does dominate the number a little too much, but it is a solid opening. After this is the title track "Thanks For Trying" which keeps that relentless pace going in that fast paced pop punk way, imagine if New Found Glory jammed with some of the members of Anti-Flag; it is a good number that pounds really fast towards the sing along chorus, it is actually really hard not to find yourself smiling along to the song, even if the content is a little sad in places. Track three is called "So Called Son" and the paced remains the same, the context of the song is about depression, despair and suicide - so all the happy topics for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. It is slightly darker (obviously) song with a dose of metal in the mix, the solo is very good and mixes in with the hardcore punk vibe of the tune very well; however the abrupt ending was a little off putting sadly. After this we are introduced to "Room On The Left" which brings the pop punk sound of the band, it is nothing that has not been done before, but the energy on this tale of wanting to escape your surroundings is actually really good. Yes, I can hear many bands in the sound which I could list here; but just because it is something already familiar with, does not mean that that it is not done well - it is one of the best songs on the album to be honest and it is one that sticks in the mind long after the song has finished.
Fifth track "Basement Balcony" is the next song, you can sense that the band are trying to steer away from punk rock 101 - how to make an album; this track is one of the more throw away numbers on the album, but it is still a good tune and even with the song's subject matter about not being afraid about being left behind it is still danceable. After this we are introduced to "Cousin Eric" and the opening bass rumble makes it sound like it is going to be a slow, grindcore number, but then it becomes a fast hardcore song that punches a hole in the side of the listeners head and the feedback returns to the song once more. It is over in the blink of an eye and does not stay around to eave more than the feeling of being in a daze. Following on (and probably so the audience can regain their breath) the band launch into the next track called "To The Ground", a love story about someone not seeing the person who is behind the number. It is one of those numbers that makes me want to jump around in a mosh pit (sadly, those days are behind me) and forget the cares of the world; another track which is instantly familiar, but still hits the right buttons for me. After this we are introduced "Destiny's Dead" which starts off with a heavy tone, then it drifts into the pop punk side of the band's repertoire. It is a good song that hits all the right places; but it starts off so heavy that when it goes to their lighter side, I cannot help but feel it could be something more.
Heading into the last third of the album, the next track is called "Time Wasted", this track is much better for me as it mixes both the faster pace of the band, the punk pop sensibility of these guys and the lyrical context about a relationship which is falling apart due to the indifference of someone is another moment that actually hits all the right spots for me, if it was not for "To The Ground" this would have been the song of the album. Next is the song called "Close Proximity" which has a guitar tone and opening that actually makes the British Indie influence; of course that is all swept away once the song starts and they pile straight into that punk noise which is their calling card, but it is a nice mixture of sounds here which keeps up that good work which also been another hallmark of this album so far as well. The penultimate track is called "Where I Stand" which is another fast and furious song that runs past you with the focus on the horizon. It is another fast, joyful pop punk anthem which has the right amount of speed to make this guy jump around like a extra in a 1940's cartoon. Ending the album is "More of Us" and for this type of album it works perfectly; it does not try to slow down the formula and has that youthful energy that makes this music one of those genres that attracts people of all ages. It ends the album with such energy that it is impossible not to smile, even if the lyrical context is on a downer.
Like a lot of hardcore/pop punk it does have a quality that will make fans rejoice in rapturous euphoria, it will also make other people sigh in weary exasperation; for me it is actually just right - almost like the Goldilocks version of this genre of music. There is a few things amiss with the album overall; the mix of the guitars needs to be a little louder for the rhythm guitar as the feedback and sometimes even the bass renders it obsolete. It might just be me. Also as good as the songs are, it could have done with some slightly heavier moments - I really enjoyed "Cousin Eric" and "Where I Stand" so a few more moments like this would not have gone amiss; but the last one is just for my own personal tastes. It is by no means the best hardcore/pop punk I have ever heard, but it is well produced and interesting enough to warrant repeat listens. If you are looking for you new heroes of the local punk rock club, you should check these guys out.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - To The Ground
You can purchase the MP3 version of the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Risk Ray website here
You can follow their activities on Facebook here
Here is a link to the Risk Ray Bandcamp
You can stream the album on Spotify here
The album is not currently on Deezer or Tidal at the time of writing, I will update here if this changes
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