It’s been two years since The Riptide Movement released their critically acclaimed second album Keeping On, Keeping On. Now, with the backing of major record label, they have returned with a slightly slicker visual image but thankfully have not diluted the raucous, foot stomping enthusiasm that gained them a solid army of fans and made them a must see live band. The latest project seems to have been in the works for a long time with a handful of the tracks first road tested during their phenomenal Olympia show in May 2013. The album itself does not disappoint.
Opener ‘Animal’ kicks in with a joyful energy that sets the tone for what follows. Up-tempo rock guitars, a bouncy melody and infectious horn blasts are the music bed for a chanted repeated chorus lyric which is impossible to forget. This is probably this band’s defining characteristic – their ability to construct simple, yet addictive melodies with a lyric the listener will remember. For most songwriters it is like capturing lighting in a bottle but TRM produce them with an ease and confidence that’s almost cavalier. Their musicality shines through on the warmly optimistic ‘It All Works Out’. The lead single from the album, it takes their signature catchy chorus and wraps it in a hopeful sentiment that could make even eternal cynics look for light at the end of the tunnel.
The album does however have its darker moments. More introspective than bleak, ‘Across The Water’ tells the story of a man down on his luck and missing his home. ‘I’m in a dark place where the birds don’t sing, and even if they did, sorrow’s all they’d bring’ front man, Mal Tuohy laments. As the harmonica fades in and out, it conveys an audible ache and sense of grief within the blue-grass guitar plucks. Likewise ‘Skin and Bone’ is a track inspired by ravages of recession experienced in their hometown. Its swampy blues production, raw lyrics and dirty harmonica work the perfect outlet for their frustration.
While TRM’s athemic choruses and big production is a clearly carved out musical trademark, overuse of any signature sound can become formulaic and although they have not quite fallen into that trap here, they might someday find themselves unconsciously teetering on the edge of repetition. As with many things, the best can come out of not trying too hard. This is an album by a band with the talent and potential for major international success. If The Riptide Movement can combine the lyrical impact of their subtler bluesy moments with the balls of those foot-stomping choruses, they just might create truly timeless music.