When Push Comes To Shove, released on 11 November 2019, is the seventh studio album by Soft Riot, the stylised musical alter-ego of Glasgow-based Canadian artist JJD.
Resonating with references from all corners of the synthpop’s origins, Soft Riot’s latest release nonetheless manages to retain its own individual voice, melding and reinterpreting its antecedents with a personal twist and an impressive demonstration of synth-craft and programming. Following on from 2018’s The Outsider in the Mirrors, these eight tracks represent a change in themes and an evolution in production and sound.
The forthcoming single and album opener “Taking The Edge Off” sets out the Soft Riot manifesto, a propulsive future-synth tale of forging ever-forwards in an increasingly noisy world. “It’s No Laughing Matter” is a hedonistic yet propulsive dance-floor slammer — shades of minimal synth and metallic Belgian new beat condense in side one closer “Fate’s Got A Bone To Pick With You” and the dizzying italo-matic muscle workout “Don’t Get Yourself Bent Out Of Shape” is the ultimate self-help smack down.
Although there’s no overarching concept to the album, Soft Riot has used this release as platform to experiment with his own concept of “déja vu”, using minute details of musical phrases and lyrics that have been used before in previously released Soft Riot material, and even between songs on this album. Some of these mirrored details are very subtle and would only be picked up by someone who has listened to all of the material up until now. It could also be the underlying black humour of Soft Riot’s work, mischievously playing off the old saying “it’s all been done before”.
The tracks were all composed in an extended hiatus from live performance between November 2018 and January 2019; a deliberate move on the part of JJD in order to foster a more focused creative atmosphere and allow for the writing process to have a more intuitive flow. This also allowed for a deeper exploration of sound design of his equipment, with this release utilising a range of different synths, something that reflects in the depth and richness of the new album’s sounds.
This revision in JJD’s approach also impacts on the thematics of his writing. As JJD says himself “I feel real life over this decade has gotten a bit stranger than fiction” — speculative preoccupations of isolation and paranoia have taken on a more personal dimension in his lyrics. There’s tales of alien visitors who fall to the trappings and joys of humanity while on a mission (“By The Skin Of Your Teeth”) to topics less cosmic and more close to home, such as the uplifting emotions one feels within a gathering of friends with the third track, “The Lost Weekend”.
The outcome has been a sideways step into more new wave pop aesthetics, and a looser sound (underpinned by the warmth of the production). This overall makes the album groove into a more dance-floor orientated full sound, thawing some of the cold-wave angularity The Outsider In The Mirrors.
— Alan Miller, Abnormal PR
- Taking Off The Edge
- It’s No Laughing Matter
- The Lost Weekend
- Fate’s Got A Bone To Pick With You
- By The Skin Of Your Teeth
- Don’t Get Yourself Bent Out Of Shape
- Heads Turn Around
- Your Work Is Never Done