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Riverboat Gamblers 

To the Confusion of Our Enemies (Volcom/East West)

This furious five-piece came kicking out of Denton, Texas, five years ago, as a rock-'em-sock-'em reaction to their burg's then-burgeoning prog-emo scene (see At the Drive-In). Despite some Fugazi guitar chops similar to their Denton peers, their preference was to rock out like the MC5. Endless touring and label-hopping over three records ensued; then came inclusion on last summer's Warped Tour.

Anyone worried that the Gamblers may have slid into the punk-pop abyss can relax -- at least as much as their rumpus allows. To the Confusion rolls skate-pop sometimes, via bigger production and ongoing histrionics, but those things fit their guitar-army style anyway, and the disc never sinks to awkward radio-ready, O.C. balladry. If anything, it's the band's most full-on rock record yet.

Any remaining angularisms have been replaced with soaring choruses, trickier but still lurid language, and more speaker-shredding volume than ever. "True Crime," "Biz Loves Sluts," and "On Again Off Again" join the explosive canon of Gamblers' dragstrip ditties. There's barely a breath until halfway through, when tunes like "Walk Around Me" and "The Curse of the Ivory Coast" loosen into that late-'80s moment when latter-day Ramones meshed with early Soul Asylum.

More by Eric Davidson

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