Live in Berlin: TRM & DOC

 In Reviews

Berlin-based independent singer-songwriter Danny O’Connor opens for The Riptide Movement’s Berlin show, and like his fellow Irishman who are tonight’s main act, he has a brand new record to get into the world. The strength and intensity of Black Sheep, released in 2016 as the artist’s first solo offering, lies in the way it succeeds in making the personal universal. That is the first common denominator with the music of The Riptide Movement. The other is that both recently released albums presented tonight are, albeit in different ways, a trip from Ireland to America.

Two years after their last album Getting Through soared straight to No. 1 on the Irish charts, The Riptide Movement follow up with Ghosts, their first ever record to be produced in the U.S. by Grammy award winning producer, Ted Hutt. After the remarkable success of its predecessor, the expectations resting upon their new album are high.

The fact that a band who sold out Dublin’s Olympia three times and headlined major festivals present their latest offering in intimate clubs like Berlin’s Musik & Frieden says a lot about the music industry and the challenge of “getting it out there”. Even for a band with a track record of undeniable successes, it’s hard work to warm up audiences to a new record. The phenomenon becomes clear at pretty much every live show when older songs are greeted with cheering, hollering and clapping, while the new ones usually get a more reserved reaction.

The Riptide Movement, however, are a band with an unusual knack for playing live shows, and they fill the place with energy and passion from the very second they burst onto the stage. Their knack for playing live accomplishes the impossible: they manage to keep the enthusiasm of their listeners on a high level throughout the set which mixes the up-tempo chart toppers from Getting Through with songs from the – in Germany still unreleased – Ghosts.

So, does it live up to the expectations? is the obvious question about the follow-up of every huge success. Whether it’s a relevant one is a different story, because it’s a general human trait to stick to what’s familiar and to be wary of what’s new. It also has to be said that Getting Through-tracks like “Animal” or “How Can I Let You Go?” are easy to love and get attached to. With their up-tempo groove, their roots in classical and timeless rock’n’roll tunes and catchy, energetic melodies, they qualify effortlessly as on-every-playlist-on-the-ipod-songs which become the daily soundtrack of jogging rounds or traffic jams on the way to work and back.

Some of the Ghosts tracks are certainly less easy listening – and therefore much more interesting. Unrulier, edgier, at times darker and more reflective, “Skull And Crossbones” or “Elephant In the Room” highlight the journey the album has been for the band as well as the “coming of age” process they doubtlessly went through since their last record. Ghosts exposes a band who are finding their own style more and more, yet never faltered in their fierce determination to know, do and get what they want. Independent band vs. signed artists (Ghosts appears on Universal Records) hasn’t changed that.

Ghosts definitely shows a development. In the music industry, developing and renewal at the risk of not fulfilling preset expectations by keeping on doing the same thing can be daring, but it is also the only chance of long-term survival. Without breaking free from their Alt Country roots on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (and famously falling out with Warner Records over it), feted Chicago band Wilco would likely be little more than a footnote of early 90s music history today.

Ghosts may not be as radical a breakaway from “the early years” asYHF was for Wilco, but it clearly shows a band finding their way and confidently doing their own thing. While influences are still clearly identifiable on their other three studio albums – and while Ghosts may not surmount its predecessor’s commercial success – the band’s fourth offering has good chances of being remembered as the album setting the stage for “the TRP sound”. Bottom line: maybe not a chart breaker, Ghosts is a winner from a band that could, and judging from their resumé to date will, go much further than they already have.

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