Riverside’s Beautiful Failure: An Editorial

I hope you’ve all had a chance to read Erik Heter’s excellent review of the new RIVERSIDE album.  From the listens I’ve had of it, LOVE, FEAR, AND THE TIME MACHINE lives up to everything any fan of the band would want and desire.

I agree with Erik’s assessment—as I almost always do!  I have to say, though, that I hope Riverside brings all of its music together.

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Let me try to explain.

One of the things I loved most about the first three albums of Riverside is how well they tied together.  By design, Riverside wrote and produced their first three albums to delve deeply into the soul and mind.  One is never sure if the protagonist of the three albums is insane or trapped in a purgatorial world.  Either way, the emotional flow is nothing short of astounding.  Everything works perfectly on these three albums, and each member of the band is truly a member of a friendship of artists, a meaningful part of a whole.

The live album, REALITY DREAM, is one of the finest concerts ever recorded.  Even the name of the show reveals how much mystery exists in the topic.  The words flow like poetry.

When ADHD came out, I fell in love with it immediately.  It has a much harder edge to it, of course.  In my mind, I saw a huge project.

  • Chapter 1: Out of Myself; Second Life Syndrome; and REM.
  • Interlude: Lunatic Soul I
  • Chapter 2: ADHD
  • Interlude: Lunatic Soul II

The problem, of course, is that the following Riverside releases, SHRINE and LFTM, don’t fit the plan! [Queue Geddy Lee’s voice]

Ok, so it’s my plan.  But, still. . . .

I think Riverside is one of the best of the best.   By simply writing great albums, though, they diminish the chances of achieving rock immortality.  They’ve traded the extraordinary for the good.  Let’s hope they come back to a grand plan and, thus, achieve something divine.

It’s not enough to pump out great albums.  A truly extraordinary band demands a vision of the whole, not merely particulars of the moment.

3 thoughts on “Riverside’s Beautiful Failure: An Editorial

  1. ” By simply writing great albums, though, they diminish the chances of achieving rock immortality”.
    I’m sorry Brad but I really don’t understand that comment and I’m not sure they care whether they become immortal or not. Using your logic I can’t think of any truly extraordinary band.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erik Heter

    Brad – thanks for the kind words about my review … which is going to make me feel bad for what I am about to write!

    I think one can actually make the case that ADHD and SoNGS are related to one another, even if not as tightly linked as the albums of the Reality Dream Trilogy. Both ADHD and SoNGS can be thought of as dealing with the relationship between modern society and the individual. ADHD seems to focus on the effect that modern society has on individuals, although they do use the perspective of the individual at times to make a point. SoNGS seems to focus more on how individuals react to modern society – although they occasionally reference the latter to make points as well. I have no idea whether that was intentional or not, but I nevertheless think both of those albums work very well together.

    Now, does LFTM continue this theme? Not having delved heavily into the lyrics I can’t say – although I do remember that SoNGS ended somewhat hopefully, with the individual protagonist deciding to take control of his life rather than to let it be controlled by society (but maybe that’s just my inner Stoic seeing what I want to see …). But perhaps, LTFM is the beginning of a new chapter, while ADHD and SoNGS could be considered another chapter, the next chapter you were looking for.

    Again, while these albums are not tightly linked the way the first three Riverside albums were, it’s not unheard of for bands to have a running theme underlying successive releases. Indeed, as you well know that there are recurring themes in Rush releases over the years. And from Dark Side of the Moon up to at least The Wall, there was a strong running theme of alienation in Pink Floyd’s releases (I’ll leave it to you to decide if that applies to The Final Cut as well).

    The other point is, I don’t want to project too many expectations on artists. I want them to follow their heart and mind, maintain their integrity, and do the best they can. Asking Riverside to start on another trilogy like Reality Dream, or to continue writing chapters in a longer narrative, might be asking for a lot, especially it that’s not what’s “in” them now, so to speak.

    As for rock immortality, or even prog immortality (or any type for that matter), I don’t think they or anyone else can ever get there by chasing it. Instead, as I said above, they need to follow their heart and mind and keep their artistic integrity. If that means doing a standalone album that’s not connected to their other works, then go that route. If it means another multi-album project, that’s the way. But in either case, that’s something I want them to decide, as artists.

    And finally, the other thing I have to say is that, apart from the lyrics, I absolutely LOVE the music on this album. Their musical evolution in some ways seems to be paralleling that of Opeth. While I’ve like Riverside from my first listen, I never much cared for Opeth at the beginning, as death metal and cookie monster vocals don’t do anything for me (unless the vocalist is covered with blue fur and singing profundities such as “C is for cookie and that’s good enough for me!). However, when I finally gave Opeth’s most recent album a listen, which is a truly prog album with no cookie monster vocals, I was stunned at how good it was. While I always liked Riverside’s harder edged work, the dispensing of those edges on their latest album is a welcome progression into new territory. If you would have asked me what I wanted a Riverside album to sound like musically prior to hearing LTFM … well, I would say exactly like what they put out.

    Man, September 4th cannot get here fast enough for me.

    🙂

    Like

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