On their debut album, the Reds prove themselves capable of kicking up as much of an urban art-rock ruckus as any band this side of Pere Ube. What makes their jittery, raw-edges electronic sound so engaging is the clarity of their instrumental constructions and the solid simplicity of their song writing. Though spending an hour with The Reds® may be the aural equivalent of assult and battery, you're likely to totter away from the scene of the crime humming their tunes.
Together for only two years, The Reds® have individual musical histories that considerably predate the New Wave movement with which the Philadelphia band is likely to be lumped. So it's no surprise that some of Rick Shaffer's lead vocals contain echoes of Mick Jagger ("Talking" and "Lookout"), as well as Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine. Whiffs of vintage psychelelia drift by too, and there's an almost Deep Purple-ish sense of raving riffery in the scorching "Watcha' Doin' To Me." Shaffer's guitar, and Bruce Cohen's inventively nasty keyboards, meld into a single brutal drone in most cuts, with Jim Peters fat bass, and Tommy Geddes' monolithic drums punching the songs home.
The Reds® don't have any obvious pop pretensions, but their music has a classic grabbiness that's all the more enjoyable because it's totally unexpected. "Victims," the LP's opening thrasher sucks you right in with its straightforward four-note keyboard hook, while the plunkety riff in "Self Reduction" sticks like a well-aimed shiv. Producer David Kershenbaum (who works with Joe Jackson) has captured the band's tense balance of aggression and amiability with commendable objectivity. But these guys need no interpretive knob-twiddling to make their message clear. If this record is any indication, a whole lot of people may soon be seeing Reds.