in Review

Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love

Oh, so this is what this feels like. Just a few weeks ago I was defending bands that changed their sound and now I have to take the other side, because Ra Ra Riot, what are you guys doing? You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the mainstream, not join them! Bring balance to the alt rock scene, not leave it in darkness! That is a paraphrased quote from Revenge of the Sith, which I think it appropriate, since this is another trilogy that has left me unsure whether I can keep caring about the franchise (that isn’t fair, I didn’t doubt my love of Star Wars until the Clone Wars).

The Rhumb Line was a hell of a debut. It was a standout album when it came out, which was 2008 – arguably the greatest year in music. It was an act that proved difficult to follow, and The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot’s second album, was even less remarkable than fellow 2008ers Vampire Weekend’s (yes, everyone likes this but me, whatever). By the time that Ra Ra Riot made it to their third album, I guess they decided they decided to completely abandon the energetic exuberance that made them great to begin with and go for a weird ’80s synthpop sound. Except wait, no, that’s a terrible idea.

If you only hear the song “What I Do for U,” you could mistake this as a terrible album. It is not. That 2.5 rating seems low, because we don’t really use the back half of the spectrum, but remember, this is just the other side of 3.5 stars. I don’t think Ra Ra Riot was cut out for making music like this, and Beta Love feels like that. It sounds as if someone forced them to make weird electronic music, perhaps by threatening their families. There’s a certain hollowness to the whole album; a pervasive sense that this just isn’t right.

But as I did my due diligence and listened to Beta Love a few times, I found a few songs that I’m kind of about. Once you get passed the whole, “Wait, who is this? Ra Ra Riot?” stage, you might find there are a few songs that you can appreciate. I think “Angel, Please” is the standout track, and the weird guitar part is “That Much” is pretty cool too. This is about on the level of a band like fun. But the thing is, it’s really hard to shake the idea that the guys who made “Ghosts Under Rocks” are singing about dancing and shit like that. They had so much heart, and it’s just gone. And that makes me sad.

Favorite Tracks: “Beta Love,” “Angel, Please,” “That Much”