I’m not going to mess about with the opening gambit of this review. Blame Culture, the follow-up full length to Dawn of the Dog from Kent’s Riskee And The Ridicule, does not suffer from second album syndrome. It’s a properly special album, and one which has got 2017 off to a musically perfect start.
I think those who’ve seen the band live or heard their stuff before now have always known that they’re something a bit special: they’ve got more than a hint of swagger mixed in with spadefuls of punk rock attitude; but amongst that there’s a level of grit, determination, steel, and simply a genuine nature. And that’s without even considering the music: on a songwriting and lyrical level, the band have always stood out; and their tracks’ catchy nature can’t be ignored.
What they’ve done in Blame Culture is taken all that, and turned it up to not just a hundred, but five hundred. Each of the tracks on this phenomenal record has personality, spirit, and absolute purity.
The album opens with an attention-seeking intro to Nobody Likes Us: that’s something you’ll get used to pretty quickly across Blame Culture. It grabs your attention and keeps it with absolute ease. As the song develops, we get a crystal clear guitar and drumming rhythm, added to banging gang vocal and typically pacy lyricism from enigmatic frontman Scott. The chorus adds elements of street-style punk to the simple, driving backing track. It’s a perfect breathless start to the album, and has more than enough of that Riskee charm and cheekiness to know they’ve not lost their sparkle.
For me, too, there’s a surprising strength to the guitar in the opening track: something which continues across the whole of the album (and makes it stronger for me). The guitar is so, so crisp, and along with the drums has been dialled up in the mix so that it really comes to the forefront. The whole album is brilliantly produced, and really moves the game on for the band. I’m not sure whether I’d expected perhaps something a little less clear and with that endearing, slightly DIY fuzziness you sometimes get on records: either way, this shows Riskee have really stepped up here.
Second track Banger again continues with a marching style verse, before some hoarser vocals kick in and an easy-as-hell to remember chorus jumps from the speakers and throttles you. It’s a simple yet suitably banging track, and one which you can imagine is going to be a live favourite. As ever, Scott’s lyrics are intelligent and brilliantly pitched. The build from about 2:20 is awesome, reaching a crashing crescendo before piling back into that catchy chorus, a real highlight.
Hipster comes third, and is a whirling maelstrom of a punk rock banger with added brass in the background. It’s choppy and quick, spinning listeners around and around with energy and a positivity not often found. There’s an earthiness to the delivery of the guitars too, which is perfectly complemented by the sparkle of the brass.
One of my personal album highlights is next in Drown. It’s a bit of a step away from what Riskee have given us before: it’s a pure and simple punk rock banger. As earlier mentioned, the guitars here are just so bloody crisp, and so gloriously riffy. Scott’s vocal displays new heights of melody and harmony too; while the spat verses seem to elevate the track even further. Add that to intelligent lyrics and the sheer head-bouncing brilliance, and you’ve got what must surely be one of the songs of 2017, just six days in.
The next track, Molotov Cocktails, is probably my favourite on Blame Culture, though. It opens in the most mournful and vulnerable way: it’s genuinely beautiful and gives me goosebumps even on this, my tenth listen through. The way Scott grows into this track, his vocals becoming more and more spat and aggressive as it develops, shows just how much this band wear their hearts on their sleeves. It is the perfect song for any situation: anger, fear, defiance, jubilance. This is such a fucking special song: I can’t wax lyrical about it enough.
Next comes Running On Air, which is altogether more gentle: it’s a bouncy, positive punk rock croon. And you know what? It’s pretty cool: it’s good to see how varied Riskee are; the tempo change at around the forty-second mark is absolutely on point, too. It’s smooth yet varied; melodic yet with some metallic twinges at times. It’s a perfect antidote to the savage emotion on show in Molotov Cocktails.
Party adds that brass back in, and returns to the feel good, marching vibes. There’s some impressive bass work in here, and some nice backing vocal you can’t fail to sing along to. It’s the longest track on Blame Culture, but you wouldn’t know that. It whistles past in a flash as with the rest of the songs here.
Another highlight next for me: Elmley To Holloway. It’s a relatively simple pop-punk banger again; but here with elements of other UK punk scene influences thrown in. There’s a slightly fuzzy feel to the verses; but that new-found clarity in the chorus. On the subject of that chorus: it’s up there with one of the best on the album, with it’s catchiness and tiered delivery.
Scott’s poetry comes to the fore on a couple of tracks and you can’t help but marvel at his talent. Backwords is one such example; and while personally I prefer the speedier and more edgy tracks, I can more than appreciate this song.
The album ends in Villain, Daddy’s Boots and then We’ll Never Belong. For me, the latter is the final highlight of the record: a jubilant ‘fuck you’ to blending in. It’s another slice of pure pop-punk genius, which not only whisks the listener into three-and-a-half incredible minutes, but also tells a story about the band themselves: friendly, open to all and genuine.
As you can tell, I fucking love this album. I knew I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t think it would get under my skin just as much as it has. I seriously think that this is a special piece of music, a special piece of art that the world needs right now. Some of the highlights here aren’t just album highlights: they’re genre highlights, decade highlights. I’m proud to call myself a fan based on this evidence, and am so proud of this band for producing what can only be called a masterpiece.