Tuesday, March 01, 2011

CD Review: The Dangers of Standing Still


Title: The Dangers of Standing Still (iTunes, Paper & Plastick)
Artist: Red City Radio (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Last.fm, PureVolume,)

Red City Radio’s debut album, The Dangers of Standing Still, is pretty much what you’d expect from OKC’s latest punk rock heroes—passionate and catchy songs that take equally from classic post hardcore acts like Hot Water Music and classic pop punk acts like ALL (which isn’t surprising considering the record was produced by ALL/Descendents’ guitarist Stephen Egerton). This record will have your head bouncing and toes taping while you’re driving, doing dishes, or whatever it is that you do when you listen to music.

What is great about Red City Radio, aside from the fact that they write fantastically catch songs with great lyrics, is their unabashed love of the Sooner State. Often it is cool, or at least it was when I was younger, to talk trash about Oklahoma, but these guys obviously love their home state and aren’t afraid to let the world know it. It’s common to hear a band from Boston sing about how great that city is, but how often do you hear people singing the praises of Oklahoma? Not very often and for that I applaud Red City Radio. Plus the flipping name check the Roustabouts in the song “Spinning In Circles Is A Gateway Drug,” how f-ing cool is that?

Red City Radio have put out a debut record that could, and should, garner them a huge following around the country. If you think I’m biased because I’ve known one of the members for years or because they are probably my second favorite band from Oklahoma, then don’t take my word for it, take a look at what the good folks at Alternative Press had to say about this album (and yes I’m breaking my usual rule about quoting other people’s work in its entirety for this one) –
Hurtling out of Oklahoma City in whirlwind of dust and fire, Red City Radio have been making quite a stir since the release of their 2009 EP, To The Sons And Daughters Of Woody Guthrie. Playing socially aware, emotionally driven rock ’n’ roll, the band have followed through on the promise of that EP to produce an incredibly impressive and ambitious debut album. Dominated by raucous, gruff-voiced sing-alongs that are as catchy as they are brash and as anthemic as they are rebellious, this album is the product of four songwriters sharing an undeterred sense of purpose and being. While that four-way dynamic does run risk of diffusing and diluting the power of their songs, Red City Radio have succeeded in channeling their disparate parts into something singular and unified.

From the clattering warning bells of “An Introduction Of Sorts”—which begins with a chugging, slow-motion gang-vocal chant before transforming into a fraught and frenetic brash-punk outburst—to the pummeling rhythms of closing song “Nathaniel Martinez,” The Dangers Of Standing Still brims with an irrepressible spirit and passion for the duration of its near-40 minutes. Listen, for example, as they sing, in unison and with voices that Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan would be proud of, “Together we can burn this fucking city to the ground” on “Two For Flinching” and try not to join in. Even on the first listen, it’s pretty difficult.

That’s precisely where the poignancy and power of this album lies—somehow, the band have managed to turn yearning nostalgia into a bombastic outpouring of restless, hopeful exuberance. “Spinning In Circles Is A Gateway Drug” is a metaphysical and metaphorical coming of age tale that destroys the sadness of the past as it speeds away from it, while “Drinking Ourselves Into The Future” raises a glass to making the most of now and embracing the moment before, as so often happen, it slips away into the bottle. Elsewhere, “I'm Well, You're Poison” tumbles with history, turning the political past into the personal present with an urgent and impassioned burst of self-salvation, and the open-road romanticism of “This Day Has Seen Better Bars” drives through the dark American night and its never-ending highways with a desperate desire to escape to someplace else, wherever that might be.

Essentially, this is intelligent, emotive punk rock at its finest that’s not afraid to admit where it’s come from. But while there are shades of others—from Jack Kerouac to William S. Burroughs (whose Dead City Radio album gave this band their name), Bruce Springsteen to Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker to the Gaslight Anthem—the late night cities, the smoke-filled rooms, the dry lungs, the drowning livers and open highways of this record are those of Red City Radio alone. This album is their own journey through their own world, and it’s very much worth joining them.
My only complaint, and believe me it’s a little one, is with the packaging. The liner notes in the CD case are extremely hard to read, which kind of sucks for people like me who love to pour over the liner notes of an album. Other than that, this is a superb record that I highly recommend. If you have never heard Red City Radio but are a fan of bands like Hot Water Music, Dead To Me, The Bouncing Souls, The Gaslight Anthem, ALL, or Fugazi, I cannot recommend this record highly enough. Go out and get it. Now. You’ll thank me later.

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