In honor of the U.K. Subs' 20th anniversary, Nicky Garratt returned to the fold for Riot and Quintessentials, which were recorded simultaneously at San Francisco's Wally Sound. And he brought along 1981-1983 bassist Alvin Gibbs (from the band's two best LPs, Diminished Responsibility and Endangered Species) for the ride. Garratt and Gibbs had returned once before -- but it was a false start -- on the OK but flawed and inconsistent 1988 LP Killing Time. This time the reunited trio get it right, using Samiam drummer Dave Ayer in place of Steve Roberts. Like Quintessentials, Riot approaches the meaty, huge-sounding production of the final two Garratt/Gibbs LPs. The mix may not be quite as big on either, but Riot's "House of Cards," "Cyberjunk," and especially the title track are brimming with all the qualities that made the Subs one of the leaders of U.K. punk's second wave, along with the post-Brian James Damned, Ruts, Undertones, Angelic Upstarts, and Stiff Little Fingers. Fifteen straight songs may smack you in the face, but as in the best of all "original spark" punk, the playing level is so escalated it belies the apparent simplicity of the written chords. Garratt's right hand chops at the strings with style as well as authority, spitting fire at all the key junctures, blasting into choruses such as "Guilty Man" out of power-riffs so nasty and glorious, you understand how 10,000 punk bands in his absence never came close to matching this! And with such a formidable band to back him at last, the always-committed Harper gains stature and probity for his gutsy stands, such as when he spits "where's the human rights?" Riot is a real case of a band recovering all that was theirs, a near-impossible feat.
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AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid