Riddle of Steel

1985

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The year the title refers to wasn't entirely dominated by neon and huge aviator sunglasses, but stranger memories have been documented. 1985 is if nothing else an interesting reclaiming of a never-never land of sweetly rough power pop/punk/metal that never quite was entirely at the time -- calling Riddle of Steel a bit of a missing link between, say, Cheap Trick and either Enuff Z'Nuff or the Posies is a stretch but isn't entirely inaccurate, while the shadow of Weezer perhaps inevitably hangs heavy. Still, if Riddle of Steel are working within some well-worn paths they don't sleepwalk through it all. (Though arguably they might be tempting fate a bit with the lyric from "Underwater" that goes "If it's too hard for you we'll dumb it down.") The easygoing punch of songs like "John Frum" (one of the most unlikely figures to be referred to in rock & roll yet -- a cargo cult deity from the Pacific) and "Loose Talk" don't upset any conventions but have the kind of full-bodied and tuneful hit to them that's hard to resist, at least if one is so inclined to the sound. At moments the building strum and chime on songs like "This Van Burns Love" and "Quiet Now" hint at alternate influences (whether it's U2 or Interpol is probably up to the age of the individual listener). The singing disappears a bit into the mix but that might actually be a sly move all around -- Andrew Elstner's got a good, winning voice but by not overpowering the music he lets the band stand out all the more effectively.

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