Album review: Beta Love

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Image courtesy Barsuk Records.

Travis Persaud, Contributor Ω

Some say to dare to dream. In the case of Ra Ra Riot’s latest effort, Beta Love, dream they did.

This dream landed them in the distant future encaged by the clutches of a robot who proceeded to puke on the band and growl, “Dance, puppets.”

Signed to the well-regarded Canadian record label Arts & Crafts, Ra Ra Riot unabashedly explored new sounds, with this album taking them worlds away from previous works like “Can You Tell,” a single off of their first album, The Rhumb Line.

Beta Love marks Ra Ra Riot’s first outing as a four-piece band since the departure of vocalist and cellist Alexandra Lawn in February 2012. The tightened line-up paired with new inspiration from the works of cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and futurist Ray Kurzweil ultimately led to the drastic sonic departure from their earlier works.

Wasting no time to introduce the album’s sound, the opening track “Dance With Me” throws the listener in the midst of overwhelming synth hooks. The electronic sounds ultimately match the cheap lyricism heard with the repetition of “I wanna be your toy.” The track draws to a close long after it should.

“Binary Mind” follows with no respite from the cheesy electro hooks, instead adding a faux clap to the dilemma. Continuing on the future train, “Binary Mind” leads us to the title track where vocalist Wes Miles sings, “In this city of robot hearts, ours were made to be.” Crud, I hope guitars still exist in the future.

The strings and guitar riffs that once indicated a unity in Ra Ra Riot’s sound eventually make themselves known throughout the album. However, they are heavily overrun by computer-produced sounds, alluding to the dismal hopes of traditional instruments making it in Ra Ra Riot’s vision of a future dominated by synth pop.

Before the album draws to a close, “What I Do For U” comes pounding through with a distorted bass more suited to the vibrating trunk of a beat up Honda Civic driven by your generic, barely legal teenager with his “Swag” hat on backwards.

Perhaps Beta Love is a slow burner that will garner more respect and playability in time, but I won’t be sticking around to find out.