Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Redwalls Aren't From Great Britain

The Redwalls

...self titled
MAD Dragon Records

What exactly is "British Invasion Music?" There's more than one wave, so it's too much there to pinpoint. The first wave? The punk wave? The new wave? What is it? Ahh, It's Chicago's The Redwalls! Their self titled third album is based on '60s mod beats, catchy vocal harmonies, commanding lead vocals, and some psychedelia. Surprisingly, it sounds modern and not rootsy. The opening track "Hangman" is a dirty guitar, handclapping introduction with a great backing vocal harmony and a scratchy lead vocal from Logan Baren that's both confident and commanding. "Modern Diet" is a three chord hit that sounds like a '70s rock anthem and a great, shakin' beat and verses that get your attention to listen, but the chorus is so catchy that one will be singing along to it immediately. The Redwalls are really on to something here. "Summer Romance" is a tender but very rockin' moment about how for a short time, the world stops and there's nothing but you're romance. It's a wonderful story with a big heart that sings of the perfect moment wrought with meaning that eventually fades with "Time goes on and seasons change, infatuation fades away, the ties that bind begin to fray". If you've every had an intense whirlwind romance, this is going to stick to your chest and the chorus will stay with you long after you hear it.

The basic '60s and early '70s rock is enhanced with great string arrangements on "You Can't Forget Yourself" that hearken to early '90s British psych revival, but the arrangements are much better and the feel is modern. The added instruments give a great texture and reveal more of The Redwalls as a strong band that are not easily categorized, but the following "Put Us Down" leans a little bit towards Strokes territory, although I'm very hesitant to call anything The Strokes do as their own territory. It's got their derivative rhythm but much better and occasionally innovative guitar work. This self titled third release paints an overall picture of a band coming into their own, so the stretches that they make with orchestration once and the addition of very strong slow songs like "Game of Love" are very reminiscent of the early to mid '70s when the influential and popular '60s act started to sound like themselves and less like their influences. "Game of Love" is just heartbreaking, though: "I tried to break her and I don't know why, but she's leaving me today, it's so clearer in the bright sunshine...It's a sad day, when you're losing your friend, you've got to hold out, think of where it began, but you're trying to have it be like it was, but it's so hard, for all the reasons above." As if pulling another card from their sleeves, "Don't You Wanna Come Out" is just loud mod fun.

A little bit of chaotic string arrangements were needed for the aptly titled "Into The Maelstrom". Wait. That song rocks! A great tempo change and a lot of great riffs, but the string melody is dark and oozing. One can't ignore vintage Rolling Stones in The Redwalls, but one can simultaneously point out that it's been a long time since one's heard the blues like on "Little Sister" done so heartfully and true since "Wild Horses". One really can't put these guys into any "sounds like" category despite the easy references. "They Are Among us" is paranoid and definitely familiar, but it just can't be placed. This is how one's roots and influences become one's own sound.

It gets hard to point out song structure or arrangements when one's confronted by The Redwalls. A lot of craft went into this album, but the technicality is overpowered by the fact that all the songs are really good, but at least half of them are great. Songs like "Each And Every Night" are heavy, lush, psychedelic, but also simple. That's the overall impression of The Redwalls. Their songs are meaningful as rock 'n' roll somewhere in between purity, early '70s British Invasion, and using the studio as an art space and not just a work space. If one thinks about what made some of the late Faces and early Rod Stewart solo work so good, the talent of The Redwalls and their music is understood. These are songs that more commercial '60s and '70s influenced acts wish they could do. Some of the influences are easy to find, but not easily at times. In the end, The Redwalls show a love for great bands and great music that never comes off as derivative. The studio production is thick, but never overbearing. One gets the impression that The Redwalls knew exactly what they were doing. This speaks volumes for their followup, but in the mean time, the listener of this album will feel like they discovered something that's fairly accessible, but too good for the mainstream.

The Redwalls and their self titled third album is a pleasure that everyone should indulge in.

One can't talk about The Redwalls without bringing up their record label. Shortly after finishing their album, they were dropped from a major label and taken up by MAD Dragon Records, an independent label run by students and faculty at Drexel University. This is a great symbiosis with the label as a nesting ground for both the artists and those looking to get hands on but real world training for a career in music. The artists and the label are both young and growing with each other. At a time when like everyone else, the music industry is suffering from a terrible economy, this is a new business model that inherently respects personal independence as part of a higher education institution, but has reliable funding and hopefully as a result, some longevity since it's part of an academic curriculum. With this new idea, let's hope that other bands out there with talent and potential will have a chance to grow and become great artists without having to pull apart under the weight of the economy and overall, an industry that's still trying to cling to its old ways of making money for itself and not the artist, but happens to no longer be viable.

Modern Diet

Game Of Love



MRW said...

Hi, I'm the CEO of MAD Dragon UNLTD, which includes our record label, MAD Dragon Records. Thanks for the shout-out. You have encapsulated my thoughts exactly in your last paragraph about student-staffed record labels. I would like to speak to you about possibly using your words in a project I'm working on. Could you please contact me at your earliest convenience? Thank you in advance, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Marcy Rauer Wagman

Mr. Suave said...

Nice post on the Redwalls. I was just mixing up the next modcast and including one of their tracks. Have you heard their new single yet?