Album Review: Red City Radio – “Red City Radio”

Red City Radio have shifted their sound – is what you’ll hear a lot of. The new direction shouldn’t come as a surprise given Paul Pendley’s departure but I understand why fans would be concerned, especially after their last full-length in Titles proved to be so phenomenal. However, this self-titled is all about growth and maturity. In fact, there are a lot things to it that we’re already accustomed to when we associate Red City Radio to these particular tracks but it definitely is masked by how their sound has varied. It’s not as drastic as say, Pianos Become The Teeth’s new path, but it’s enough to take note. Red City Radio isn’t the same high-energy pop punkers of old but don’t worry because their new modus operandi, while more classic rock and roll, is still filled with singalong anthems to latch onto.

Their pop sensibility is older and clearly wiser. “Rest Easy” is an easy-punk jam of this nature to highlight my point. It sets the stage for the weathered feel of the album which oddly enough should draw comparisons to Success’ Recovery. The alternative radio-friendly sprawls work neatly and it’s good to note the minimal filler as usual. Tracks like “Stranger” appear mainstream and are great jumping on points for an album that’s equally accessible, charismatic and honest to their already-existing catalog of music. However, this album stands up to the rest of their discography as the most lyrically telling with a lot of wisdom imparted.

Sure, it’s less gritty, less brash, and not as aggressive as we’d have liked but despite being laid-back, it’s still spunky. “Electricity” as well as their emblematic dearth of whoa-ohs on “Let Me In” also offer nods to their music of old so die-hards should recognize the signatures and styles of past before throwing a fit. Furthermore, it’s really impressive how they up the romantic punk notions on songs like these. Again, it’s no easy trick but one they pull off well. Garret Dale and newcomer Ryan Donovan (both on guitars and vocals) bring a lot of melody out through catchy hooks and swing-for-the-fences breakdowns that it’s more than enough to compensate for whatever they’ve sacrificed from the olden days.

Here and there, you do get some Bowling For Soup flavor that could be cast as a tad generic but still, it’s a record that ultimately has enough depth to warrant a few listens. And I do think it’ll take some getting used to for old fans. That said, “In The Meantime…” and the slower tempo “…I’ll Catch A Ride” end the album on a note that touches on relying on drugs and more so, bookends a narrative that feels much more fleshed out and novella than ever before. Red City Radio is a series of tracks that look forward to the future and it paints the picture of punk-bangers who sound much more settled and much more content. Older and wiser, indeed.

4 / 5 Stars

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