taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment


— Live Demo: Legitimate Business

In their attempt to run away screaming from the pop-punk status quo of music so empty and insincere that anyone could write it, the Radio Reds made an EP last spring that was dogged primarily by the unwieldy, inscrutable themes it tackled. Some were far greater in scope than should be taken on within the context of a two-and-a-half-minute punk song — or even twice that, for that matter — but it was as if they were learning that lesson over the course of its five songs. It began with the oversimplified treatise on extremism “Teachers” and continued onto the broad-brush incursion into information addiction on “Disconnected,” but the latter represented a turning point when songwriter Stephen Kent connected himself to the vague generalities on which he built his lyrics. By the time the five-track EP concluded with “Priority,” the band had offered a concise and engaging, if somewhat naïve breakup song in “Priorities.” Their latest four-track live demo, recorded at Legitimate Business, shows a band that’s still putting it all together, but has made tremendous lyrical and melodic strides in that short matter of months. There’s a distracted sense of urgency in singer and primary songwriter Stephen Kent’s voice that persists in all of the band’s music, but here we finally see other members of the Radio Reds assert a presence in their music. New bassist Michael Kent lends a brawny counterpoint to Patrick Boyd’s rippling guitar on “Howl” and “Sole Weakness.” Where it was hard to make out who exactly was playing lead on the EP, roles are clearly defined here with bass serving both to compound the rhythm and be the evil melodic twin the Radio Reds needed from the outset. Their cover of the Ramones’ “Poison Heart” shows keen arranging sensibilities, deconstructing an original from the punk gods’ most stagnant period and rebuilding it in their own image while retaining the song’s dark subtext. It’s another step in the right direction for a promising band, and hopefully there’s more to come.

The Radio Reds will perform at the Blind Tiger this Sunday as a part of VH1’s Second Annual Save the Music show.


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