Red City Radio


Written by: TL on 01/12/2013 16:48:25

While it may be underrated and overlooked by the outside world, if there was any doubt whether scruffy-yet-melodic punk-rock is its own thing, then the trip PP and I took to FEST 12 recently put the matter to rest: Not only have plenty of bands lit torches by the fire of Hot Water Music and carried them far and wide stylistically, they've also become widespread geographically, with bands like Leagues Apart and Astpai flying the colours in Europe even if most of their contemporaries are littered across the United States. Scruffy, melodic punk-rock IS a thing, and a rather big one at that, and one of the most happening bands in it for the past three years is Red City Radio, much deservedly via their excellent debut full length "The Dangers Of Standing Still", which served the fans singalongable punk rock anthems by the boatload.

In the proper circles then, expectations for the Oklahoma quartet's second effort have understandably been high, and true to the if-it-ain't-broken attitude that's popular in their scene, Red City Radio seem to comfortably stay themselves on the new record "Titles". As is customary for the genre, the instruments are allowed to sound raw, organic and down-to-earth in the production, packing a punch even if the songs are perfectly "poppy" and forthcoming in their nature. On one hand, Red City Radio are exactly the same as bands like No Trigger and Banner Pilot, relying solely on dynamic chord-progressions and resisting to have their intentionally sloppy vocals deciphered for some stretches. One the other though, the band whose members all have pasts as lead singers in other bands, manages to consistently include devilishly contagious refrains, employing enough subtle variation in terms of tempo and songstructure to keep you interested, even if the tone of sound stays the same for all ten tracks on offer.

That's an outsider-friendly way to describe it. To punk rock fans I could simply write: "Red City Radio consider to write the style of music you love" and then the question simply becomes: "Awesome, so are the songs good enough for us to yell along to them, like we yelled: "The system it wasn't designed for us!" or "Together we can burn this fucking city to the ground" on the last record?" And the answer is a resounding yes - In fact I think you'll be hard pressed to not test your voice after just a few spins, singing "Doesn't matter if you tell the truth, doesn't matter if you lie, doesn't matter if there's flaws in your alibi, I'm not buying!" already on opener "Two Notes Shy Of An Octave", likely making up your own words to that last part which is slurred to the borderline inaudible.

Fortunately, "Two Notes.." is not the kind of opener that promises more than the album can keep, because your pipes will be needed again already on the curiously titled "Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You", first when the song jumps from balladic intro towards noisier ending via the words "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!" and later when consolidating itself via "I AM A FUCKING JUGGERNAUT". It's followed by the surprisingly catchy "I was dreaming of Barcelona" opening of "Joy Comes With The Morning" which later surges via the nostalgic sentimentality of "You were my Ginger Rogers, and I was your Fred Astaire". After two such of the band's slower cuts, we then get back up to speed with the driving forwardness of Off With Their Heads-ish "A Joke With No Words", which sports a repetitive response from the backing vocals which begs to be roared back at the band live.

That's halfway through, and at this point the band is already on track to provide as many celebratory singalongs as their debut album did, and while "Titles" will prove to be slightly frontloaded with its best bits, I still see it continuing to spread the band's popularity to punk rock fans nation- and worldwide. It's a great example for people who argue that bands should stay true to their sound, concentrating more on writing good songs with relatable lyrics than on toying with their sound, and while I personally actually tend to demand a bit more development from my favourite bands than that, it seems that I find myself willing to let it slide for at least this one album in Red City Radio's case. If they want pointers on how to get even better, I'd probably suggest working ever so slightly with the enunciation of the vocals so fans can better piece all of the lyrics together, but otherwise the band is so good at what's important - namely writing songs that are energetic, meaningful and catchy - that I might even forgive them if they tested the same formula on a third album. So long as they have those essentials in place, they're more really in danger of spinning in circles, than of really standing still.


Download: Two Notes Shy Of An Octave, Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You, Joy Comes With The Morning, A Joke With No Words
For The Fans Of: Off With Their Heads, No Trigger, Banner Pilot, Rancid, Hot Water Music, conventional Midwest punk-rock in general

Release Date 15.10.2013
Paper + Plastick

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