Riot can’t be separated from its time, and neither should it be. That’s not to say the album is imprisoned by it. At least once every year, usually during the hottest days of the summer, Riot becomes the only music I listen to for days at a time. Maybe in the hot weather everything is slow enough for me to take the record in. It is, to cite Godard again, the return to zero that’s necessary before any start from zero can be attempted. It is both the scariest and the most claustrophobic record I know — and, in its negation and its refusal, one that suggests a new language is possible. That should not be seen as a sliver of hope, since the new language here talks of betrayal and shame and failure. Riot is the voice of both an embittered idealist and a man who saw the darkness of his time all too clearly. No wonder it ended Sly Stone’s career.
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