When other music critics toss off Beatles comparisons, I’m the first to cry foul. I know very well that there’s nothing lazier and simplistic than comparing a pop band to Britain’s favorite sons. (Isn’t Paul McCartney, like, Lord High Admiral now or something?)
17 Feb 2005: The Riviera Chicago
So stay with me for a minute when I tell you that The Redwalls (the artists previously known as the Pages) sound an awful lot like the Beatles. Don’t worry, that’s not a cheap knock or an easy way of dismissing them. You, as the PopMatters faithful, deserve better.
The Redwalls sound like The Beatles at their best. In other words, the Redwalls are ripping off the Beatles’ sound from an era when they themselves were pirating early American R&B. The result is what Chicago might have wrought if we’d just been able to keep this rock ‘n’ roll thing on this side of the pond.
So what, then, are the Redwalls doing here in 2005? A lot. For one thing, they’re touring with the two most overhyped Brit bands of the moment, the Zutons and Keane. For another, they’ve signed a record deal with Capitol Records, and, if the lore is to be believed, their album was completed just before the Redwalls graduated from Deerfield High School in suburban Chicago (Big ups, DHS Warriors!)
You could be a bully and say that the Redwalls are four years too late for the mainstream “garage rock revival”, or be cheeky and say that they’re four years too early for the mainstream “British Invasion revival”.
But damned if the Redwalls weren’t right at home on stage at the Riviera, a theater-house sized venue that ought to have made them look too big for their britches. Don’t get me wrong, at this point in their career, their ragtag appearance and crunchy pop tunes would still play better in a poorly lit bar at 3 am than at a VH-1 Thursday night blowout. For a band young enough even to call themselves “The Redwalls”, though, they held a decently sized crowd without cracking. Come on, is any band made of late-twenty-something artists going to have the gall to carry the name of a barnyard medieval fantasy novel? Salamandastron, ho!
The music that the Redwalls trotted out on stage is, of course, the poppiest variety possible. The harmonies, down to the ooos and ahhhs, are right out of Meet the Beatles, the melodies are almost invariably major-key, and the lyrics are all about love and summer.
They didn’t come to the Riviera to blow my mind; they came to celebrate a better record contract than deserve, wear clothes that make them look cooler than they are, and play pop songs. And really, what more do you want out of a rock show? How, after all, can you judge a guitar band if not on the quality of their ooos, ahhhs, come-ons and oh-yeahs?