First off, if you need proof of Sly's state of mind during this period click HERE. Dude was fucked up. During the recording of this album he was locked up in his mansion, by himself and the occasional groupie, doing massive amounts of coke and PCP. Sly was losing his mind and the band was falling appart.
Gone are the uplifting and optimistic anthems from Stand!. What you'll find here is dark soul, weird funk, and lyrics like: "feels so good inside myself, don't wanna move" and "look at you fooling you". The happy days were over motherfucker. The good times were replaced with wars, assasinations, and overall social unrest. It's one of those albums that represents the feeling of a time period and the state of mind of it's creator perfectly.
"All of There's a Riot 's pleasure centers and nerve endings are frayed from coke, dope, flesh, flash and, above all, disillusionment. Every single sound is weary, wasted, creaking, cracked and sleep-deprived, like a somnambulant zombie stumbling through the graveyard of ideals on the pavement of good intentions. The singles ("Family Affair", "Running Away") exude a façade of empty positivity, a bitter resignation to the darker forces bubbling underneath. Chicken-scratch guitars claw at caskets, human drummers meld with undead drum machines, and frightened voices fissure with the crisp horn lines, yet it all sounds incredible, prescient. Listen to the paradoxical 0:00 of the title track, to how hip-hop took that stripped drum sound and furthered Sly's bleak music, to how Miles got his groovebox back, to how the wasted Brits-- from Primal Scream to Julian Cope-- copped their dope from the grooves. Listen close, because there's no way in hell a major label will ever again let out this much horrible truth."