I was wondering how long it would be before I got assigned some sort of quarantine album and, buddy, this might be as close as it gets. Stayin’ In is the debut album from the Indiana-based rustic rock band River Rats (pretend I came up with another adjective that starts with an R). This power trio blends together elements of folk-rock, punk, and power pop for a catchy, albeit familiar-sounding, set of seven tunes.
Stayin’ In kicks off with “Ballad of a River Rat,” one of the folksier tunes on the album that feels a bit like a toned-down As the Eternal Cowboy era Against Me! Some other tunes worth highlighting are “Sky” and the title track “Stayin’ In.” The former is a simple, but captivating, two-minute tune that brings the vibe of the album down with a gloomy, at least, by comparison, chord structure and some moody vocal harmonies. The latter is a charming dedication to just some of the bullshit that the world loves to dump on all of us. At their best, River Rats are an upbeat, folksy punk band that could liven up a dingy bar. Goddamnit, I miss dingy bars.
Stayin’ In is a fun ride, but it falls short for me in terms of production and creativity. I don’t think River Rats would benefit from Teflon slick production, but there are aspects of this release that could have been buffed out. The band is without a bass player, a crime against nature in my eyes, but I digress. The result is a tinny sound that’s especially noticeable on tunes like “Captain Rat” or “Niles Woman.” Creativity-wise, River Rats aren’t doing anything you haven’t heard before. Songs like “Burn it Down” or “Captain Rat” have an 80’s hardcore throwback vibe to them, and I don’t see that as a plus. With two guitarists, three vocalists, and better songwriting sprinkled throughout the album, I feel like River Rats could have put some more effort into the more straightforward tunes.
River Rats ain’t too shabby. The trio gels together well and there are some solid tunes for a debut release. Stayin’ In is good music to have in the background, I’d like to hear if they can do something more to hold my interest in future releases.
Written by Justin Bruce
*Edited by Dominic Abate