Riverboat Gamblers - Underneath the Owl (Cover Artwork)

Riverboat Gamblers

Underneath the Owl (2009)


I guess it was only a matter of time. After churning out three pretty much flawless albums, the Riverboat Gamblers have let me down a little with Underneath the Owl. Don't get me wrong -- this is still a noble effort, but it just doesn't have what the last two had: speed.

The album starts off with, hands down, the best track, "Dissdissdisskisskisskiss," featuring vocals from Todd from FYP / Toys That Kill. He does the muted voice thing at the beginning of the song, which sounds better than he has ever sounded. The main appeal to the song is how fast and straightforward the song is. This is seriously their best leadoff track ever. Yes, better than "True Crime" from 2006's To the Confusion of Our Enemies.

The next song, "A Choppy Yet Sincere Apology" may be catchy, but is the first song to suffer the general complaint of the album -- it is too slow. I know not every song has to be a balls-to-the-wall concert sing-along, but that's where ballads like "The Tearjerker" come in (a song similar to 2003's "Lottie Mae", but better). Instead, we get these medium-paced rock songs that leave me looking down at the clock around the two-minute mark wondering how much longer it's gonna last.

There are four fast songs on the album. The previously mentioned "Dissdissdisskisskisskiss," "Catastrophe," "Pilgrims in an Unholy Land" and "Victory Lap." The only other song that doesn't make me want to press the skip button is "Robots May Break Your Heart," which is an aforementioned medium-paced track, but is somewhat experimental since it features a xylophone and actually works because of the "robotic" sound and how different it is.

Something else that the album lacks is substance. Songs about insomnia and reclusiveness don't strike the same chord as songs about the state of charity health care and a punk band actually having a little pride in their state when traveling abroad.

The Riverboat Gamblers are known for their live show and most of these songs just would not go over well in a live setting. With the Gamblers, the energetic songs are the only ones that really matter.