I could probably meet my word count just listing the post-punk bands whose influence is audible in Red Animal War, but it wouldn’t be fair to the long-suffering Texas group, which has weathered seven years of obscurity (hence this album’s name) while cranking out music that does much more than walk in footsteps. With crisp, brawny guitar, a pummeling rhythm section, and sometimes jointly shouted vocals, Red Animal War crafts dense, gripping, and often narrative-based songs. “Enterfear” describes a sniper in 1968—who could as easily be in a suburb as in Vietnam—with a deft interplay of music and lyric that lets tension build on the bass until a shattering series of cymbal crashes finish the story. Meanwhile, “The Sky Above the Sky Below” explodes into a surprisingly catchy “hey na na” chorus, and amidst the album’s politically charged lyrics lead singer Justin Wilson cryptically declares, to both funny and creepy effect, “I’ve got Republican friends” on “FFB”. Seven Year War combines both new and older material; some songs on the final stretch bear a bit too many mid-90s emo trappings, but this only serves to illustrate how far the band has come, and how sharp its songwriting has grown.
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