Red Or Dead: Trotsky Waltz (self released)
Bandcamp Download / CD
Released 1 Jan 2018
North Wales Hippy-Protest-Folk-Punk troupe of Acoustic warriors debut album. Ideologically sound but musically unfashionable, some moments of real greatness though says Ged Babey.
This Red or Dead are two men and two women from North Wales playing acoustic folk/punk and not a poncey shoe company from that there London…. so there shouldn’t be any confusion or copyright issues.
Despite my irrational hatred of the L*v*ll*rs and dislike of folk, this is a labour of love made by underdogs with attitude & no business/label backing and it’s probably one of the best albums of its genre you are likely to hear in 2017 or 2018.
In the same way that I try not to repeat myself when reviewing, bands like Red Or Dead, attempt the near impossible in trying to be original, or at least a bit different to all of those that came before ploughing the same furrow.
I used the Wolfie Smith / Social Justice Warrior affectionate jibe on Slow Faction … and the ‘scratch a punk and underneath you’ll find a hippy’ is an old-one … so what stick have I got left to metaphorically beat Red or Dead with?
Well perhaps a great marketing device to go with this album would be a scratch and sniff sleeve which smelled of camp-fire smoke. Listening to Trotsky Waltz you can just imagine being in a muddy Festival field sat round a roaring campfire with assorted crusties and hippys and cider-filled old punks and listening to these songs of Making A Stand against the Man and Fighting the Power and Living Your Life… with everyone singing along. Idealistic Communal Folk-Punk Campfire songs is what Red or Dead do – and with some experience and skill.
The first thing which struck me about this album was the ‘drum-sound’ or percussion. It’s like the clip-clop of a horses hooves tap-dancing! Or a little mouse with clogs on, there on the stairs, right there… So I asked the band… ‘It’s a Cajon, like the old bluesmen used to play’. A-ha! I said not at all Partridge-like ‘I knew it!’. I didn’t. I had always assumed folkies just tapped on an old cut-down tea-chest… It gives Red or Dead a bit of a different sound though.
I Am the Fire – the opening track is pretty much an epic, with a New Model Army type rousing feel to it. It has a bit of a Persons Unknown feel as well lyrically. Have a listen; if you like this, then you’ll probably love the whole album. It’s unashamedly Social Justice/ Eco/ Pacifist / Class Warrior stuff but with just about enough variety and a few surprises to keep it from being dull and ‘preachy’ – the usual criticism of bands like this.
Some of Red or Deads songs have a female lead vocal -but then a male vocal will interject… like in the song In America. It’s all strumming along quite nicely with woah-a-woah-ohs and a twangy guitar solo when the bloke chips in…
Land of The Free? Fuuuuuck Off! Land of the Rich White Man….
He proceeds to have a rant about the US of A which ends with a bawled ‘Stop Selling Guns To Morons!!!’ Great stuff!
No One Is Innocent is a re-used song-title and one of the weakest on the album and there is another song called Steeltown – this one is a heartfelt song about the decimation of local industry – not by Thatcher, although she is name-checked, but under a Labour government.
Colin Cambridge features some Roger Whittaker style whistling and lines which start with the words Mama said…. so I skipped that one.
A New Day... oh god, this does sound like the Levellers…
Never Again is better. Angrier and a great positive bit of lyrical defiance. ( I probably like it because I can easily imagine it being a full-blown electric guitar arse-kicker)
Never Again will I bow down to a false ideal or a faded crown. never forgive, never forget, never yield and never relent….
Travel Home steals a bit of the vocal line from Armagideon Time….
Whilst Strummer and Burnel lays it on the line – how punk influenced the band members tastes and beliefs – although in this particular case, helped by the fact that the person concerned fancied the hell out of Joe and JJ. ( Always thought Simonon was the ladies favourite!)
Make a Stand is a purpose-built singalong anthem and could well fill stadiums as well as the corner of a forgotten Festival field.
Whilst this album really isn’t ‘my bag’ as they say, it is a well thought out, thoughtfully written and nicely recorded collection of cool protest songs. Inevitably there are a few cliches and tropes which define the genre, in the eyes of non-believers… but if you are a New Model Army, Clash and Stranglers fan who likes a bit of campfire folk, then I can’t recommend this album highly enough.
After all, as they say… it’is time to make a stand.
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All words by Ged Babey