Riverboat Gamblers

Smash/Grab EP

Even a good bet’s a loser 40 percent of the time, and Austin’s Riverboat Gamblers have gotten the short side of the stick more than they deserve. For more than a decade they’ve crackled like a lit fuse, nearly blowing to pieces on multiple occasions. The fiery intensity they showcase onstage has turned inward at times, claiming several band members as collateral damage. Indeed, anybody who’s witnessed their live show has to wonder how they can maintain that intensity night after night, before inevitably moments later thanking the universe for their existence. Their garage punk splits the difference between the Stooges and the Supersuckers forging a rabid grimy incendiary sound that’ll practically pop your eyes out of their sockets because they hit so hard. The trouble’s been capturing that energy on disc. After sparking interest with their first two discs—2001’s self-titled and 2003’s Something To Crow About—they’ve been in something of a holding pattern their last two releases—their two Volcom-released, Mudrock-produced were quite a mixed bag, with the tempos slowed and the hooks increased but at the expense of being far too polished.

This four-song EP serves notice that the Gamblers are back and hitting on all cylinders. Each of the songs would’ve been a highlight on their earlier albums. It starts off with the raging 69-second garage-core blast of “Anything But You,” tearing off at breakneck speed with the intensity of Minor Threat. The next track, “Maggie Lea” boasts a sizzling guitar tone and blistering riffage, but is nonetheless the weakest track on the album. It’s followed by one of the finest songs they’ve ever written, “Parasite Friend,” full of barely digested bile and an irrepressible hook. “I think you should meet my shrink,” Wiebe intones humorously, about 30 seconds in. “The two of you could compare notes and please get back to me.” It doesn’t just rip, but slows in the break for a bit of dreamy melodic drift as Weibe’s observes that nobody wins with brash proclamations and formal declarations, informing his so-called “friend” that “nobody’s holding a gun to your head.” They then turn back up the tempo and return to the refrain, as Weibe asks why they’re waiting to cut him off. The EP closes with chunky stomper, “The Ol’ Smash And Grab,” which offers a paean to the selfish, predatory intent that at times seems our human legacy. “Su casa is my casa,” Weibe threatens.

Those wondering if the Riverboat Gamblers had floated off on their way are given a resounding answer: Hell no, we won’t go. And we’ll all feel richer for it. Just can’t wait to hear what comes next.

Paper + Plastick http://www.paperandplastick.com

“Parasite Friend”