The Redwalls

The Redwalls

Mad Dragon Records, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


In a storyline that’s getting more and more familiar, the Redwalls recently completed the indie-to-major-and-back-to-indie trifecta feedback loop, traveling from Undertow Records to Capitol and, two albums later, back to indie Mad Dragon.

That slightly bumpy ride has had little effect on this quartet’s musical sensibilities, though.  They remain proudly retro, so out of time and specific in their influences that at times it feels like they’re auditioning for the leads in a heretofore unwritten Broadway musical about a fictitious mid-60s British Invasion group.  Despite the band’s youth and Midwestern roots -- brothers Logan (vocals/guitar) and Justin Baren (bass/vocals), Andrew Langer (guitar/vocals) and Ben Greeno (drums) are all from Chicago -- their sound is my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 London 1966, with minimal concessions to time and technology.

Still, it becomes apparent on their third disc that the boys have been through some changes.  While their affection for classic sixties and seventies sounds is undimmed, this is a darker and moodier, more mature and less pop-centric Redwalls. 

Oh sure, “Modern Diet” is a monster of a single, hooky and melodic and full of Logan’s patented Lennon-blues-shout vocals, but it also shows a snappy bit of edge as the band skewers targets right and left, including both its own retro stance (“They say it’s all been done before / And there’s really nothing new / Well that’s just your point of view”) and poseurs of all stations in life (“So how’s your trust fund / You must be proud of all the work / Your father’s done”).

Strings swell pleasantly on the melancholy “You Can’t Forget Yourself” (trenchant following line -- “she’s all you’ve got”) before giving way to the jittery guitar lines and propulsive rhythms of the Beatles-meet-Elvis (Costello, that is) number “Put Us Down.”  Familiar territory, perhaps, but then things take a turn…

On the swirling, pounding, urgent “Into The Maelstrom,” the Redwalls display a heretofore-unseen dark side that’s at least as interesting as their ability to channel John and Paul at will.  Soon after, “They Are Among Us” positively screams along, unleashing an almost punk energy behind a lyric that shows the boys haven’t lost their sense of humor -- it’s a spot-on satire of B-movie space invader flicks from the 50s and 60s.

It’s ironic to have this album, a virtual declaration of artistic independence, come out at the same time that “Build A Bridge” from 2005’s De Nova has just assumed a place in the nation’s collective consciousness as the Verizon advertising jingle du jour -- but that doesn’t change the significance of the statement this album makes.  The Redwalls is the sound of a band coming into its own, taking its influences and figuring out how to make something truly fresh and new from their component parts.  The best British Invasion band ever to come out of 21st century Chicago have another winner on their hands.

Rating: B+

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© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mad Dragon Records, and is used for informational purposes only.