by Brian J. Audette
What’s that, down on Red River Street? Is it a hipster? Is it a yuppie? No! It’s The Red Heroes, come to save us from this soggy spring with a one-two punch of pop punk! In an effort to start 2016 off right and get on top of my resolution to go out and see more shows, I spent an ample amount of time down on Red River this past January during Free Week. I saw a lot of good local bands, many of whom I was already familiar with, but some like The Red Heroes whom I had never seen before. At the time The Red Heroes had only a single track from 2014 posted on their Bandcamp page, a promising tune called “Sunset.” It was enough to spark my interest, but what I heard that early January night at Beerland more than proved that it was just the tip of a large and rocking iceberg. Touching base with the band after the show, I was happy to learn that they were recording tracks for a full-length album and planned to release in the summer. Well folks, it looks like summer’s early. The Red Heroes debut LP Sing-Along Hate Songs is here and it’s great!
Sing-Along Hate Songs starts off appropriately enough with an abbreviated sing-along version of the mid-album track “Hate Song”, offering up a bit of punk charm before tearing into a three song suite that leaves no pop punk stone unturned. Grounded by bouncy beats, solid, hook-laden guitar riffs, sing-along vocals, and paced to make you move, the entire album is like a virtual how-to of pop punk in the 21st century. I imagine that were you to lock some kids in a room from birth and force them to listen to nothing but Bad Religion, The Descendants, Green Day, The Promise Ring and Kid Dynamite, that The Red Heroes are who would walk out years later. They’ve got it all: the vocal harmonies, the solid beats, the poppy hooks, the choruses of “whoa’s”; it’s enough to get me pogoing right on the spot!
Coming hot on the heels of Sing-Along Hate Songs’ opening salvo, the aforementioned “Hate Song” shoves its way to the front of the crowd to announce its intention to rock. A pissed off pop punk anthem featuring the chorus “This world, it needs another hate song/To add to the playlist we put on when you’re around“, “Hate Song” doesn’t fool around. The track comes on strong, opening with a mall punk beat and lyrics that snarl and spit through pop hooks and jagged guitars. A third of the way through, the track takes a breather with some crisp solo noodling before returning full force to that bratty beat and the refrain “I’m not that into you”, layered over the chorus for the remainder of the song. If there’s a chance you’re going to be composing a break up mix tape any time soon, “Hate Song” needs to be on it.
Side two opener “2013” is an altogether more complex affair: an angsty narrative with a nuanced structure though still backed by driving rhythms and crunchy guitars. Follow up “Quitter Heart” fulfills the obligatory acoustic song requirement that pop punk records have had since shortly after Green Day’s American Idiot. “Quitter Heart” succeeds in feeling neither kitschy nor insincere however, another point in favor of The Red Heroes. “Cell Phone” is an altogether too catchy and lyrically brilliant modern anthem about social media and the ubiquitous devices that we all love to hate, yet cannot seem to live without. At under two minutes I suppose it’s the most “punk” song on the album, but it’s easily the most “pop” as well. Given the right exposure it’s the kind of track you’d expect to hear everywhere all summer long.
Lengthy album closer “Anne” is about as emo as Sing-Along Hate Songs gets with its losers lament and melodic, aching guitar solo. Shades of Get Up Kids and The Promise Ring abound as the song unfolds, breaking down mid way for a couple minutes of quiet solo guitar and then surging forward anthemically alongside a march of drums in its final moments. It’s a fitting swan song for a brilliant debut LP that I’ve honestly only scratched the surface of in this review.
It wasn’t long ago that I was lamenting Austin’s infatuation with the fuzzier, stoner haze of garage punk, a style that (while entirely valid) has never been my cup of tea. Over the last year or so however I feel like the scene and maybe the audiences are opening up to a broader swath of punk music and The Red Heroes’ pitch perfect pop punk are hopefully another milestone along that road. Sing-Along Hate Songs is a debut worthy of praise and repeated listens. Grab it, learn it, and sing along. That’s what I’ve been doing since my first listen and let me tell you, it feels great!
The Red Heroes will be playing Cheer Up Charlie’s “Pop Punk Night” along with Retirement Home and The Capitalist Kids on May 10th.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bjaudette.