Riddlin' Kids: Stop the World

Stephen Haag

Riddlin' Kids

Stop the World

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2004-10-19
UK Release Date: Available as import

It's a risky move using the word "kids" in a band name. As a matter of denotation, hell, use whatever words you want, but the connotation of "kids" is almost completely negative to the rock community at large (read: those over the age of 17): it signifies teen mall punk antics, and besides, who respects kids anyways? (As a former kid myself, I feel qualified to make such a bold statement.) That said, in the face of such daunting logic, Austin, TX, quartet the Riddlin' Kids sound all grown up on their sophomore disc, Stop the World, graduating from (to these ears) the emo-punk of their debut, 2002's Hurry Up and Wait to full-fledged rock band. (See also this year's effort from the Get-Up Kids, Guilt Show -- an album that helped that juvenile-named act move out of the emo ghetto and on the map for discerning, post-pubescent listeners.)

The first sign that a pop-punk band is maturing is that they write more than just straightforward songs about girls. On "Apology", lead singer Clint Baker's narrator thanks his girlfriend for sticking by him while he battles a brain tumor (inspired by a friend going through such a scenario). It's a genuinely moving song and it showcases Baker's lyrical depth and willingness to look outside of himself for song material. Meanwhile, Dustin Stroud's clean, shiny guitar lines help make the song upbeat; one gets the feeling Baker's narrator and girlfriend will overcome this challenge. Meanwhile, "Ship Jumper" is the band's "fuck you" to their management, tour manager and crew who all bailed on them in the middle of their last tour. (The circumstances surrounding the split are hazy -- or at least not discussed in the press packet -- but "We'll be here after the smoke clears," promises Black). Dave Keel's angry drums propel the song, revealing the band's secret hardcore jones, and with Stroud's hook-happy guitar, the song is both vitriolic and catchy.

The Riddlin' Kids do sing about girls, but to their credit, their girl-songs are clever. "Promise You Anything" is the best of a strong bunch, as Baker's sweet-talking lothario does his best to get in a girl's pants using lines like "I promise you, girl, that I won't tell anyone I know" while the band bounces along in power-pop mode. Also noteworthy are the nervy "Talk of the Town", where the band disses gossip ("There's better things to talk about") and "I Hate You" ("I hate you / It's safe to say that you hate me too... / In the end you wanna stay with me all night / And that's alright with me" pretty much sums it up); and the choppy-guitar fueled "Turn Around", in which Baker's narrator forgets his girlfriend's birthday, calls her by the wrong name, and forgets to pick her up leaving her to walk the five miles home. Props to Baker for penning sharp character studies of unrepentant cads. It's a compliment to say I could see OK Go performing these songs.

The Riddlin' Kids should, at the risk of reading too much into their album title, keep their world spinning: they've straightened out their management's abandonment issues, written a dozen sharp songs, and turned them into a fun, rocking album. Lazy concluding sentence: There are no growing pains for these Kids.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.