Small Brown Bike The River Bed

After seven years of creating full-throttle pulverising post-hardcore angst rock, Michigan's Small Brown Bike have taken the opportunity of their third full-length release to explore new directions, thematically and sonically. While retaining the rugged punk aesthetic of their first two discs, The River Bed introduces wild dynamic shifts into the mix. Songs like "Sincerely Yours" and "The Outline of Your Hand Remains in My Hand" come across as, dare I say it, ballads, or at least as close to a ballad as four guys weaned on old Avail and Fugazi records could create. Meanwhile the use of slide guitar gives the melodic "A Lesson to Remember" an almost country feel. "It's the kind of thing where you know you want to try something new, and we knew that if we tried it we may fall flat on our faces doing it, but at least we tried," acknowledges guitarist/vocalist Mike Reed. "I really don't want to fit into one genre so that when we put out a new record it sounds like the last record. That's not something I want to do. I look up to bands that you're really not sure what you're going to hear when you hit play." A line-up change from that of 2001's Dead Reckoning disc — the return of a former guitarist and the addition of a new drummer — also allowed Reed and bassist brother Ben to discuss new possibilities. "There were conversations about exploring new stuff and coming up with new ideas," says Reed. "Some songs it took a year and half to get solid and some songs came together in a couple of weeks. There's a little bit more depth to it than four guys just going crazy for 35 minutes. There's more depth and interesting parts and it's not full on all the time." Maybe not, but the band is still a guitar rock band and even the slower, quieter tracks simmer and seethe. It's a bold experiment that works largely because the band has the skill and sincerity to pull it off. (Smallman)