Releasing a stunner of a debut in 1979, Philadelphia's The Reds® were a bright spot in a new wave scene that was just starting to pick up speed, although their day in the major sun was deceptively short. Tour slots with The Police, Joe Jackson, Public Image Ltd, and the Psychedelic Furs, as well as critical praise from the music press heavies of the time couldn't stop the record from tanking. A follow-up and highly collectible 10" EP, which included a cover of The Doors "Break On Through," failed to drum up further interest, and A&M promptly dropped the group. You are probably thinking the end of the road right? No so fast, enter Canada's Stony Plain label and two further albums, and again the critics fell over themselves praising The Reds®. Another album on Sire, some work providing music for the "Miami Vice" television show, and a few movie soundtrack appearances, including "Band Of The Hand," "Manhunter," and "Nightmare On Elm Street 2," followed up with solo and session work, and incredibly The Reds® are still releasing albums to this day. So why aren't they a bigger name than their biography would suggest?
Perhaps it's because The Reds® continued to reinvent themselves, break new ground musically, and have been difficult to categorize from day one. A good example of this is the cover of their debut. Despite looking like a skinny tie power pop album, The Reds® opening salvo is a much darker record of post punk pop and art rock tendencies, with thick wedges of dense heavy metal that melted together into one helluva record. This was the same type of sound Joy Division was working at, although The Reds® were far less depressing and did keep it in a tuneful pop context for the most part, as on "Luxury," which sounds like The Cars on downers. "Joey" is the Velvet Underground meets Aerosmith, while "Lookout" is a simply devastating work with Deep Purple-ish grinding organ, crashing guitar, Jim Morrison influenced vocals, and brain buzzing pre-Jesus And The Mary Chain dissonance. Side two is slightly weaker with a stretch of pop tunes that in the hands of any other band would be forgettable and bland, but we are talking about The Reds® here, and they do their best to fuzz things up with plenty of angst along the way. The closing track on this side, "Self Reduction," is the winner, again combining Doors-like aggression with Jon Lord styled organ runs, and I was recently surprised to find the tune received some airplay although it didn't help to shift many copies which was truly a shame.
This has remained one of my favorite and most listened to records over the years, that sadly has never received its due in the digital format. How much Glory Daze readers will enjoy The Reds® depends on how much you appreciated the early new wave before it became just another major label rouse.
Glory Daze Music
April 8, 2008