Courtesy of Barsuk Records
Ra Ra Riot – “Dying is Fine”
We’ve all heard the phrase “death is a part of life” before. But in the music world, the death of a band member rarely yields vitalizing results. In fact, death usually signifies the end of the entire band (Led Zeppelin), misguided attempts at side projects (Dave Mathews Band) or a weaker, less popular version of the same band (Queen).
However, in the rare case of Ra Ra Riot, the band not only survived the death of a key member, but managed to flourish. In 2006, Ra Ra Riot was one of the freshest bands on the young music scene at Syracuse University, winning rave reviews from SPIN.com and The New York Times for their exuberant live shows. But in 2007, Ra Ra Riot’s drummer John Pike went missing after a show – only to be found later, dead in the nearby Buzzard’s Bay.
After months of mourning, the band decided to reunite. They signed to V2 Records to issue their first self-titled EP and the recently released full-length album, The Rhumb Line. By combining energetic songwriting and carefully composed stings in the same vein of Arcade Fire and The National, they create a lush and wonderful sound that hooks you in immediately.
Take the aptly titled opening track “Dying Is Fine.” Borrowing themes and phrases from the e.e. cummings poem “(Dying Is Fine) But Death,” the song is one of Ra Ra Riot’s most powerful and poetic statements to date. The opening explodes with a violin melody and cello harmony coupled with more typical guitars and drums. The chorus is both a sing-along and a dance-along, with inspired lyrics such as, “No more of this living, dying and scientific analyzing…Baby, you know that dying is fine.” The song is as lively and glorious a pop song as it is a rich and beautiful tribute to the deceased.
The Rhumb Line is currently available in stores, and their first nationwide tour stops in Atlanta at the Drunken Unicorn on Oct.10.
by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf