Eleventh Dream Day – Riot Now!

The cover of Eleventh Dream Day’s tenth album features a cartoonish image of aging punks standing in line at a grocery store.  Depending on one’s perspective, it may look either pathetic or endearing. The same could be said of this long-running Chicago band’s stubborn persistence – but my money’s on the latter. The quartet’s heart remains firmly with first-wave punk, although its heroes stretch a few years further back into the seventies.

Riot Now! is Eleventh Dream Day’s noisiest album since the early ’90s squall of Lived To Tell, finding guitarist Rick Rizzo again praying at the altar of Crazy Horse. The fuzzed-out, balls-to-the-wall “Damned Tree” and garage stomp of “Cold Steel Grey” waste no time setting the tone.  Even the synth washes that embellish “Satellite” are remnants of the Sputnik era, supporting a tune that recalls “Sonic Reducer”-era Dead Boys. Oddly, a later track is titled “Sonic Reactor” (and provides the album’s ironic title), but its meat and potatoes riffage veers uncomfortably close to Foreigner territory.

Even when they quiet down for a pair of extended tracks like the haunting “That’s What Coming,” the effect is more of smoldering embers tensely awaiting a wayward breeze to set the field ablaze once again. The parallels between EDD and Yo La Tengo are inescapable (particularly in the Jersey trio’s early 90s rough-hewn phase) and driven home here by “Divining for Water,” a close cousin to YLT’s “Tom Courtenay” down to drummer Janet Beveridge Bean’s “ba ba ba” backing vocals.

Eleventh Dream Day lost its second guitarist years ago, and without that interplay (Riot Now! was recorded with minimal overdubs) some of these workouts can get a bit brawny. For that reason, the sustained organ chords of relative newcomer Mark Greenberg figure prominently in highlights like “Tall Man” and “Maybe This Time.” The latter’s qualified optimism (“It feels good to me/ but I might be mistaken”) plays like an overly honest song selection for a second wedding. It could also double for Eleventh Dream Day’s outlook – scarred, but pumping with life and ready to concede nothing.

Eleventh Dream Day
Riot Now!
[Thrill Jockey]