Riddle of Steel 1985 CD release at the Bluebird, Friday, November 30

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In this week's paper, I talked to Riddle of Steel, which is celebrating the release of its third album, 1985 at the Bluebird on Friday night. The show apparently is featuring a laser light show(!) and free beer until 10 p.m., so show up early. Thor Axe and Big Sky Blue Earth (the new band of Shiner's Paul Malinowski, who produced 1985) are the openers.

In the piece, I describe 1985 thusly:

The title might be a cheeky nod to Van Halen's 1984 (a big fan, [Vavak] recently flew to New York to see David Lee Roth and Co. at Madison Square Garden), but there's nothing ironic about the album. Its guitar riffs are pure shit-kicking rock & roll, hooky and monstrous without being cheesy — from the slow-motion campfireburn of "Loose Talk" to the spring-coiled-twang of "Who's the Fella Owns This Shithole?" and the stripped-back, Smashing Pumpkins-like "This Van Burns Love." Elstner has one of the most unique voices in town, with nonchalant vocals as silvery-metallic as Failure's Ken Andrews in places, as menacing as QOTSA's Josh Homme in others.

Even more impressive, Riddle's rhythm section is locked in like a game of Tetris; for instance, "Plenty of Satisfaction" is dominated by Vavak's sinewy, menacing low end and Smith's rhythmic maelstrom, while the cowbell laced through "Underwater" is crisp. Where 2005's Got This Feelin' perhaps was more indebted to the textured prog of the Police (another big Riddle influence), 1985 is classic rock-leaning — without feeling musty or stale.

Riddle of Steel, "Who's the Fella Owns This Shithole?"

Riddle of Steel, "Quiet Now"

Riddle of Steel at the Bluebird, November 8. Front is Andrew Elstner, drumming is Rob Smith, and in the shadows is bassist Jimmy Vavak.

-- Annie Zaleski

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