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It's not easy being out there on the cutting edge of pop music these days.

Hailed by the U.S. rock press as one of that country's best post-punk bands after initial industry put-downs, Philadelphia's The Reds® have come full circle in less than three years.

Fatal Slide the group's uncompromisingly tough and often powerful third album has recently been released by Edmonton-based Stony Plain Records, and that's just fine with Rick Shaffer.  "We're only going to work with people that are into it for the music," he emphasizes on the phone from home, "and (label owner) Holger Petersen is into the spirit of it."

"After the first album, (American label) A&M flew me to Los Angeles to separate me from the other guys in the band, sat me down, and said, 'Boy, this is not art, it's a business to make money.'  I couldn't believe it.  Now, we have deals with small independent companies all over the world. and that's the way we want it."

The album's title cut represents The Reds® at its lucid best, chronicling the slow fall of an innocent to the very bottom with frightening accuracy and raw-nerved emotion.  "It actually happened to a friend of mine," say Shaffer, "who lost everything in the space of a month, and ended up being beaten to death in a holding cell for drunk drivers.  It means a lot to me."

• Alan Kellogg  Edmonton Journal  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada