Ra Ra Riot's third album, Beta Love, is a turbine of artistic ambition that marks their continual evolution as artists. This indie rock band from Syracuse, New York formed in college and triumphantly released their debut album The Rhumb Line, which garnered mainly positive reviews. A full time string section used to give their songs a distinguishing characteristic and a drive that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the same band that made a unique debut with an orchestral element charming audiences. Over the years, cellist Alexandra Lawn and drummer Gabriel Duquette have left the band taking along with them part of the originality Ra Ra Riot had. Any of the organic instruments that previously existed have been replaced with a synthesized, pop sound that fails to recapture the former attention the previous albums have.
The shift to a more electronic based sound in Beta Love also comes with an alteration in the lyrical direction the band is taking. The thought provoking lyrics found mostly in The Rhumb Line and even a little in The Orchard have been discarded for a more predictable, uninspired approach. Vocalist Wes Miles repeatedly sings that he wants to “be your toy” and “I knew you were. Oh Angel. Please stay with me”, which isn’t the most original play of words that could’ve been thought of for a hook.
The album does however have a couple successful songs that are worthwhile to give a listen to. The title track “Beta Love” features an infectious beat and incorporates a falsetto chorus that makes the song strikingly different from others off the album. It actually shows how the potential synthesized pop sound direction could benefit their growth as a band. The most upbeat track off the album is “Binary Mind,” which showcases an excellent keyboard riff and rhythm that contribute to the high energy this song has compared to the otherwise lackluster recordings.
Dedicated fans that have enjoyed previous albums will likely find Beta Love disappointing due to the vast direction change they have chosen. Some will blame their inconsistent music on the departure of different band members, but as emerging musicians it is inevitable to experiment with different sounds in order to find their niche. To the disappointment of many this band may not be aware of the saying “don’t mess with a good thing” because they definitely tapped into uncharted territories better left unexplored.