Fist Buried in Pockets is the first full-length for the Riot Before as a full band, but you'd never know it considering how accomplished and seasoned their brand of folk-punk sounds. And don't let the term 'folk-punk' discourage you -- this isn't your typical gruff, indecipherable noise that's often unfortunately associated with that label.
The deliberate, minimalist approach employed in the opening title track molds suprisingly well with its fierce followup, "Threat Level Midnight." Gang vocals adorn the spots around the confident vocals of Brett Adams, and "5 to 9" (nope, it's not A Wilhelm Scream cover) features galloping drums, noodling guitars and a ton of calculated speed. Some clever lyrical play in that song segues into the next track, "You Can't Dance Sexy to Punk Rock," chock full of double-time drum fills and effective "whoa"s in the background, not to mention some suprisingly intricate guitar work.
"I Have My Books" is an interesting track, primarily because of the vocals. Adams is all over the place here -- he starts off sounding raw, powerful and a little whiskey-soaked, then discreetly reels it in for a more vulnerable approach for a few lines before descending into a full-on yell for the remainder of the song. It's the first real chance the band takes on the record and thankfully, it comes off swimmingly. That song seamlessly segues into "They Rode on in the Friscalating Dusklight" (I'm sensing a pattern here), an infectiously catchy song with a driving foundation and a bridge heavy on "whoa-oh"s. "We Are Wild Stallions" is by far the poppiest track here, dictated by some choice lead guitar parts and an anthemic chorus.
Perhaps the strongest song on Fists Buried in Pockets is "Words Written Over Coffee," a track carried largely by a simple harmonica part that shines over what's a slightly less chaotic approach. There are some well-placed, yelling background vocals and a weeping guitar solo as well.
Closing out the record are its two longest songs by far, "Election Day" (nope, it's not a Paint It Black cover) and "Capillaries." The former has a quietly galloping lead-up into a huge, sweeping mosaic of huge guitars and passionate, slightly raspy vocals. There's some noodling in the fadeout that's a little jarring, but not enough to ruin a song that, thankfully, doesn't feel as long as it actually is. The latter track appears to be more straightforward fare on the surface, but a closer listen reveals a quickly-paced tune with a strong, memorable opening verse and a shitload of awesome guitar work -- it almost feels like a cut-and-paste type affair, but each part is so strong the transition from part to part appears seamless. And fortunately, having two long songs in a row to close the record did little to halt its momentum.
The standout moments on Fists Buried in Pockets (and there's quite a few) show that the Riot Before have the chops to create a great record, but I don't think they're quite there yet. With a little more focus and some more experience under their belts, these guys would undoubtedly be in the upper echelon of revered bands in the community. Regardless, this record is really solid on its own merits.