We all have a crop of bands who have the power to meld their release cycles with our personal calendars. For me, in keeping with my predictable beardo persona, March 9th meant one and one thing only: new Red City Radio. The new EP is SkyTigers and it continues what their last album started— a re-defining of their identity, while scratching fans’ itch for more gruff punk singalongs.
Since The Dangers of Standing Still, Red City Radio have positioned themselves as formidable songwriters with intense instrumental chops. Although they’ve slowed down, embraced and diminished different elements of their sound and lost original co-writer Paul Pendley, Red City Radio has stayed remarkably consistent in the final product, largely thanks to the songwriting chops of Garrett Dale, who’s gruff and soulful voice give heart and body to intensely singable melodies. So much so, that post-Pendley, Red City Radio released their third full-length as a self-titled, codifying themselves as gifted songcrafters with a knack for grooves and guitar solos.
And if there’s anything that SkyTigers brings to the game, it’s definitely the latter. Solos have always been apart of Red City Radio’s core sound, but here they feel somewhat more prominent, longer, and in general, just more awesome. Maybe it’s the bright, almost neon artwork, but coupled with those noodly solos, the EP adopts an almost 80s rock personality, complete with loud chords and lots of strut. The americana, heartland rock center of the band remains, but the emphasis on guitar-centricity makes it all the more rollicking. If there was one thing I’d have to say about SkyTigers, it’s that this is Red City Radio rockin’ out.
The songs are as good as ever. “If You Want Blood (Be My Guest)” is a great jam with a gripping opening line (“Now I’ve got your attention…”). It starts quiet enough to focus in on the vocal melody before bringing in the guitars and vocal harmonies. The boys are back and they sound just as good they ever had. “I’ll Still Be Around,” a reference to their last releases final track, “I’ll Be Around,” begins with a countrified opening and features an incredible solo. Along the way though, there’s a bunch of lyrics to hang onto and enough crunchy chugs to keep the song feeling like punk rock for grown-ups.
“In the Shadows” might be my favorite off SkyTigers, a spaghetti western tinged stomper with a shredding solo and a killer chorus. It’s dark sounding, dramatic, and a whole lot of fun— somewhere between “Eye of the Tiger,” Ennio Morricone, and latter day Hot Water Music. Complete with a call and response chorus and coupled with an insistent beat, it’s easy to see how “In the Shadows” will slay live.
The performance level of SkyTigers is obvious from the get-go. These are songs meant to be played live, to be experienced in a sweaty club with open hearts and throats. In some ways, Red City Radio reminds me of PUP, who share a similar approach to songwriting. Throughout the album, you can’t help but think about the live show. These are fun songs tailor made for the setlist. That’s where SkyTigers really exceeds, in its ability to bring you into the fold within a couple of lines. Musical escapism, as pure as it comes— music to dance, sing, and rock to.