Small Brown Bike - The River Bed (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Small Brown Bike

The River Bed (2003)


In my review of Small Brown Bike's Nail Yourself To The Ground EP a few months ago, I tried to be clever and compare this band's career to that of Cursive, another band who has been around for roughly the same time and put in roughly the same amount of legwork to get to their current level of popularity [selling out thousand person venues, getting consistent plays on M2, and raking in critical praise]. I said that with Small Brown Bike's upcoming full-length, they'd be poised to make that same jump into spotlight that their friends had already completed.

I hate to say it, but with The River Bed, Small Brown Bike must've gotten something caught in it's spokes, as this album stays in first gear, never really making any progress. That's not to say it doesn't have it's moments, however.

The opening salvo of "Deconstruct/Rebuild" and "Safe in Sound" maintain the high energy level displayed on the quartet's last full-length, with a perfect blend of dynamic drumming and vocals that border on that line of gruffness. Sadly, the album peaks this early, and the group spends the next 8 songs trying to re-create that intensity in the first 7 minutes or so. "Scream in the Silence" is probably the strongest attempt of the band trying to regain their musical footing, with a driving-yet-dancable drum line and strong dual vocals.

The rest of the album isn't bad, per se - the problem is that it's just more of the same. None of the songs are real duds in the sense that I would purposely not listen to them ever again, but they are duds in the sense that none of them are really strong enough to stand up on their own, unlike almost every track on Dead Reckoning. The band seems to be playing it safe on this album, and it's a disappointment after seeing the potential for progression displayed on the Nail Yourself To The Ground EP. Where Cursive evolved with The Ugly Organ, Small Brown Bike seems content to rest on their laurels. Let's hope it's only a temporary funk.

Safe in Sound