Now Hear This 2004

by PopMatters Staff

1 January 2004

NOW HEAR THIS 2004   Can’t figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters’ music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Band of Boys in Vintage Suits and Ties

On the surface, The Redwalls could be just another young band riding the crest of a retro-styled rock and roll wave. With the garage far too-crowded with MC5 and Stooges wannabes, these four kids from suburban Chicago have rifled their parents Beatles, Kinks and Bob Dylan records to create a truly passionate, inspired set of rock music. Sometimes it smacks so close to the pre-fab Beatles (you know the sound: the twangy guitars, the tight harmonies, the Chuck Berry and rockabilly riffs sprinkled with a Bo Didley backbeat), you might not think The Redwalls have a style of their own. Fie on you. Brothers Justin and Logan Baren on guitar and bass respectively, Andrew Langer on guitar and Ben Greeno on drums have the chops, the strut, and the stance in spades.

Their debut record Universal Blues out late last fall on Undertow Records is a beauty. The boys create a sound so distinctive in its swirling sexy swagger and cocksure rancor you’d think they had been writing rock songs for years. If the track “What a Shame” hasn’t gotten radio play by now, it damn well should. Drenched in swelling vibrato organ fills and stinging guitar licks, the song begs comparisons to when the Stones came to Chicago, checked in at Chess Studios and bathed in the rough and tumble Chicago Blues. Perhaps you want your rock shot through with the Texas mud of Doug Sahm—well then there’s “Balinese” and its psychedelic twang and fuzzed-out vocal howl. Inevitably there are the Beatles-esque tunes like “It’s Love You’re On” with the handclaps, the ooh-aah harmonies, and the bright buoyant guitars; or “Colorful Revolution” where The Redwalls declare “though the song is the same it doesn’t matter who plays it, it’s alright.” Herein lies the rub. Great music is not only timeless but timely. The Redwalls may have soaked in the healing waters of their rock forbearers but the songs they are writing are infinitely catchy and memorable. They are both nods to the rock canon and forward sounding gems that kick down the walls of the garage, that shout from the basement, that hail from the backroom studios and demand to take notice.

— Timothy G. Merello

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