Tonight Red Pills play the Library’s 360 club, to launch their album. Below is my review of it.
The Red Pills – Northern Rock
The Red Pills’ début full length album Northern Rock is an ambitious project, in which they attempt to tell a story of personal struggle against the backdrop of global financial meltdown. It seems, in more ways than one to be where theatrical rockers like The Who meet the dystopian imaginings of Orwell’s 1984.
Turn Your Nose Up, is riddled with 70’s blues rock riffs and if the band was fronted by somebody a touch more Mick Jagger than Bruce Dickinson, could be a soul infused blues rock number, straight out of the 60’s, however the borderline operatic vocals take it in a different direction, which for better or worse, makes it a bit Broadway. It could be that I’m very aware that I’m listening to a concept album which is supposed to tell a story through the tracks, which always leads to you listening intently to the vocals to try and understand the story and forgetting to enjoy it track-by-track for the album it is.
It is however, a definite throw back album, the equivalent to the blues and rock and roll scene as The Darkness were for 80s glam rock. They’re not a novelty band but their sound is so authentically 70s sounding that, once you were also aware of the concept of the album, you could be forgiven for thinking they were parodying the 70s a la Spinal Tap.
Party Hard is one song which, for me, exemplifies this vividly. The Red Pills have in this song, their own ‘My Generation’, it’s an energetic and again straddles that border between blues rock and hard rock. There is a bass solo, a guitar solo, a female backing singer ad lobbing at the end, a saxophone wailing towards the cymbals and all finish. At this point I feel like I should clarify, they are very good musicians and the solos are genuinely impressive, especially the bass solo which is offered up in the call and response style which is now immediately reminiscent of The Who.
The album does have its calmer moments. Among the blues opera is a lovely acoustic blues song called The Wasting, the violin accompaniment to which is tastefully simple but no less prominent for the discipline. This song also shows off the band harmonies, which are impeccable and the lower end of singer, Captain Mayhem’s voice which is similar to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.
Overall, it an album which has clearly been thought through and executed with vigour as well as precision, and songs such as Broke and Broken, Party Hard and Looking Through Different Eyes are spectacular nods towards an era which would have probably been this bands spiritual home. Unfortunately though, it’s 2014 and as well produced and considered (the band released 3 EPs before attempting a full length album) as it is, it may struggle to be taken seriously, there is a demand for this though, and not just Dad’s in double denim – if they can latch on to or carve out a similar following as bands such as Knock Out Kaine, they will undoubtedly go far.
JAKE AND THE JELLYFISH – CREDIT CARDS AND OVERDRAFTS
Jake and the Jellyfish have been a staple of Leeds’ punk diet for nearly 4 years (as a full band, Jake began as a solo artist) and 2013 saw their first full album release. It is characterised by astute social commentary in the lyrics and high regard for all things punk, predominantly a folk punk band, they often meander into reggae and ska with climatic distorted choruses heavy interludes scattered between the calmer moments. The overall sound is a melodic, energetic and heartfelt. While all this is true, it has maintained the shroud of its grimier beginnings as Jake McAllister wails and growls.
The first 4 tracks on Credit Cards and Overdrafts, display the rawer side of JATJ. Tunnel Vision being the angriest and first track on the album is disguised by its melancholy and relaxed acoustic introduction. At its climax however, it reveals itself as a raging lament about the restrictions of modern society. The title track of the album maintains the same acoustic punk feel, with lead lines draping themselves over the tight core of the rhythm section. Rise and Shine sees a change in direction, it is decidedly grittier from the opening muted guitar riff, hinting at the coiled spring which waits. As the song progresses it became a high tempo, high energy, angry ska punk song. Spare Change, essentially a protest song, shows off the quartets reggae credentials. The song pivots on the same chord progression, using dynamics and vocal hooks to differentiate sections and culminates in a heavy outro.
This is contrasted by the introduction of Landfills which is an acoustic ode. A through and through folk song, infused with gospel melodies and banjo. At this point it is worth mentioning that Caffs, the bass player also plays banjo and Rich, the lead guitarist also plays violin, both of which make scattered and instinctive contributions throughout the album.
Black White and Grey is a return to the start of the album. It has crashing drums, a catchy and sincere vocal melody, and using stabs and pauses, builds tension during the verses, giving space for the chorus to rise. Containing the line “No-one wants to play to an empty room”, it clearly documents the struggles of new, unsigned artists.
Forever Cynical, is a slower, more emotional side to JATJ. Sweeping violin melodies and a plucked banjo combine with the acoustic guitar and vocals for the majority of the song with a full band finish.
The 8th track, Dotted Line, has become a crowd favourite. It is the most pop influenced song on the album, however, it sacrifices none of the punk vigour which sets JATJ from acts playing similar country infused acoustic music. At the heart of Dotted Line is a wholesale rejection of authority, albeit described through tongue in cheek sarcasm.
In People Watching Rich sparks off quickening violin melodies as the rest of the band plough through a bouncy folk punk song, snare rolls and bass riffs driving another folk song turned punk anthem and yet another catchy vocal hook from Jake’s seemingly endless supply, accompanied by gang vocal harmonies from the rest of the band.
The penultimate song, Parking Space, laments peoples reliance on material objects for happiness. The recurring guitar riff wouldn’t be out of place in an Eagles song but the lyrical content and its anthemic melodies transform it from soft rock to an integral leveller, preventing the song from becoming a rant or repetitive.
Same Old is a fitting end to an album which is characterised by disillusionment with life. Not only is it about exactly that but within the first verse, the ties back to the first line of the first song (“I’m bored of this place, I’m bored of this scene”), with the line “The same old bar and the same old friends”. Whether or not this was intentional is unknown but it does neatly tie up the concept of the album.
The song itself acoustic with the only accompaniment to Jake’s guitar and vocals being provided by subtle violin parts.
In 2014 Jake and The Jellyfish will be gigging from February.