Fricke's Picks: A Winning Hand - The Riverboat Gamblers

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If there was a Purple Heart for punk-rock performance, Mike Wiebe of raging Texans the Riverboat Gamblers would have a chestful. He is a singer who always brings the show to you — surfing on hands, swinging from rafters and spinning around pillars — and he has the scars, abused muscles and mended bones to prove it. Underneath the Owl (Volcom), the Gamblers' fourth studio album, is great contact sport in its own right. "dissdissdisskisskisskiss" and "Catastrophe" are tight, high-velocity bundles of sanded-fuzz guitars and bloodlust-rah-rah choruses, like the raw-glam Clash of Give 'Em Enough Rope with extra spit shine. (There is explicit spangle, too, like the raindrop vibraphone in "Robots May Break Your Heart.") For a guy so ready to bleed for you, Wiebe shouts a lot about doubt. "Trying to drown out that ringing voice," he sings in "A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology," dogged by the mocking chant "Give it up, give it up." But this is a band of tour-van lifers, who hit the finish line here at full speed, with no whining, in "Victory Lap." "Please don't let me let myself forget," Wiebe urges at the end, "that we had it good in that moment." You can tell him, face to face, at the next gig.

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