Riot .303 - Riot .303 (Cover Artwork)

Riot .303

Riot .303 (2022)

Supreme Echo

One of my favorite musical ahistoricisms is the idea that punk rock in the American context died sometime around 1978. It is true that the first record you could call “American Hardcore” dropped in ‘78 and Sire Records declared punk dead and New Wave the official buzz word in ‘77. Yet, punk rock continued to persist. I am talking about the mid-70s modern notion of punk rock, not the 60s garage bands. The stuff that Johnny Ramone would call “pure rock ‘n’ roll”. That is fast-paced guitar-centric music that took the 12-bar blues traditions of rock ‘n’ roll and slammed it together with the big major key melodies of pre-British invasion pop (girl group, doo wop, teen idols, tin pan alley etc.) and turned the volume dial up to 12. While it is true that that the less tuneful brand of American Hardcore came to dominate the landscape, most places didn’t have anyone releasing any hardcore punk until 1981. There was still vital, ripping punk rock being pounded out in all kinds of obscure corners of the continent. Don’t believe me? Vancouver’s Supreme Echo has taken the task of restoring and releasing a collection of the complete recordings from Calgary’s Riot .303.A band who was creating “pure rock ‘n’ roll” style punk right into the early 1980s.

The first portion of Riot .303 is pulled from the band’s only release during their original run, the Crowd Control 7” EP from 1982. It is a rather lo-fi affair, typical of 80s D.I.Y. punk and hardcore. The opener from both the EP and this collection is “Drugs”, a fairly forgettable song that wouldn’t be out of place in the repertoire of many a late 70s London or L.A. band. There are definite anglo influences here and the same can be said for the rest of the offerings from the EP as well. The exception to this is “Something Living Under My Bed” which maintains the same dark tone as the rest of the record but turns hard into 60s melodicism in a way that isn’t entirely dissimilar to Metal Cirus era Hüsker Dü or the Nils’ early materal. It even has a ripping guitar solo!

The next suite of songs on the collection is the only material outside of their 7” that the band released before their breakup. These four songs appeared on Thrasher Magazine’s Skate Rock! cassette compilation in 1983 and marks a slight progression for the band. Once, again, the song-writing is fairly derivative of other late 70s punk rock but the band steers more heavily into L.A./O.C. punk territory. This is mostly achieved through slinky surf-inspired guitar lines. If it wasn’t for the title and subject matter of “Murder The Prime Minister” you wouldn’t have a hard time convincing me the band was from Orange County instead of the Canadian prairies. The haunting back-up vocals can only lead me to one conclusion: the are also black holes in Calgary where the kids are from. I’d argue the strongest of these comp songs is saved for last, with the deathrock inspired “Nightmares Of Another Kind” that even adds some welcome delay effects on the vocals for extra spookiness.

The last half of the album is made up of unreleased recordings from ‘81-’83 representing the various moods of the band. The best of the bunch is by far “Non Aligned” that clicks on the same perfect noise to pop ratio of “Something Living Under My Bed” with it’s delightful ringing guitars. The band’s self-titled song, “Death Sentence” and “He’s On A Rampage” all showcase a more American hardcore oriented version of the band but I’m just not sure the added speed does anything for them. Riot .303 were so preoccupied with whether or not they could play harder and faster, they didn’t stop to think if they should play harder and faster. *inaudible Goldbluming*

If you are for some reason a Canadian punk rock archivist this release is essential. If you are a huge KBD style punk rock fan there should be enough here for you to enjoy.