Have you ever waited months for Christmas in the hopes of getting the present of your dreams, only to be underwhelmed with the result? Ripe’s debut album, Joy in the Wild Unknown, encapsulates this feeling perfectly.
Known for their funky party-rock vibes, Boston-based Ripe claims to “refuse to believe in a single definition of dance music”. This philosophy is evident in their newest album, but not necessarily in the way that they intended it. Unfortunately, Joy in the Wild Unknown is a mess. Although it might sound better if the songs were played out of order and mixed in with their past releases, as an entity the album proves to be extremely disappointing to fans who are already familiar with their signature sound and energy. Instead of sounding like a diverse definition, the songs seem like they have been smushed together in a way that lacks effort and real thought. Although it would serve as a pleasant sampler for an introduction to Ripe’s talent for a newcomer, the trained fan’s ear will likely just end up confused and disappointed with this one.
My issues with the album began with the second song. The first, “Little Lighter,” gave me hope, but “Flipside,” which I had heard as a prior release, was a huge disappointment. Throughout all of the new version, I felt as if the band was being held back by a giant rubber band, stretching against it but never quite getting to the point where the song gained enough energy to produce a nice, satisfying snap. While the base was solid, the higher end needs to be included more in the mix to fix the lack of energy.
The missing piece of the band’s energy was a common theme throughout the album. Each song seemed to drag on longer than the last, lacking the heart that I expect from such a dynamic group. That being said, there were a few exceptions to the rule that dragged Joy in the Wild Unknown up from the depths of bad albums to simply those that disappoint. While I couldn’t pick a favorite track from the twelve, “Follow Through,” the third track, was definitely filled with cool, staccato rhythms and swooshing horns that make Ripe the unique entity that it is. While the lyrics didn’t feature as much of the wordplay as some of the other tracks, “Follow Through” was still uplifting and playful with a strong horn section and catchy buildups.
Although a few of the songs retained Ripe’s signature style, the second half of the album sounded like an entirely different genre. While the songs meshed well with each other and didn’t sound bad, per se, they were sure a shock after the first five tracks, which were definitely more ska in nature as opposed to the new, rocky sound. I did enjoy some of the tracks, like “Yesterday’s Clothes,” I didn’t feel that they should have been included on the same album as the other tracks.
If you’re looking for classic Ripe, Joy in the Wild Unknown isn’t your best bet, but if you want to get into the band, it’s definitely worth a try. While I won’t be buying their newest album, Ripe will remain in my top music picks in the months to come.