There are two things I have to start by saying. One is that I will never go to another show at Red 7 again. I first went there back in January to see No Age and the band sounded awful, each song blending indistinguishably into the next in an overwhelming wall of distortion. I had originally blamed it on the group, but then I went there for the second time on Saturday night to see Ringo Deathstarr and the same thing happened! Red 7 is just a concrete box that destroys any sound it touches. The band sounded like a total mess with inaudible vocals and bland songs.
The reason I can blame this on Red 7 is the second thing I have to say: Ringo Deathstarr’s new album Colour Trip is awesome. This is just a fact. After the show on Saturday, I played the album for my friends that had joined me and it was like a revelation to them. That’s what the band was supposed to sound like. When I first heard this record, I wasn’t even sure I would like it. It hits you over the head with My Bloody Valentine guitars and other shoegaze sounds and male singer Elliot Frazier (from Beaumont where he was friends with drummer Daniel Coborn) sounds just like the Dandy Warhols’ Courtney Taylor and female singer Alex Gehring (an Austin native) is a vocal dead ringer for MBV’s Bilinda Butcher. Those are great influences, to be sure, but it felt like I had wormholed right back into 1990.
Which is kind of the point. Bands like Yuck and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are making headlines in the indie music blogosphere right now for their 90s throwback sounds, and Ringo Deathstarr is a part of that movement. RD avoid redundancy, though, by writing great songs, and kicking up the rhythm section. As great as Loveless is, I’ve always hated that the drums sound thin, tinny and distant. RD fix that. Lead track “Imagine Hearts” has the trademark shoegazey guitars over a distinctly dancy rhythm track that’s more reminiscent of early-90s pop/R&B acts like EMF or Soul II Soul. In fact, in an e-mail interview with Frazier, he confessed, “We have lots of influences, like Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Enigma, Sex Pistols, Public Enemy, Descendents…”
This trio (former quartet) keeps up the pace over the whole album. In fact, the opening three songs (the aforementioned “Imagine Hearts,” then “Weekend Dudes” and “So High”) comprise one of the best opening triads I’ve heard all year. And I listen to music like it’s my job. Because it is my job. Those songs – and all the others – are short and energetic and inventive, avoiding the “gazing” aspect of traditional shoegaze bands. The songs themselves have catchy hooks that keep you coming back. My one word of warning: if you like music for the lyrics, this may not be for you. I’m more of a sound person, and that’s RD’s focus too. Frazier admits, “[Lyrics] always are the last thing we think about.” Instead the vocals melt into the overall sonic structure of the song, creating entrancing sounds.
Ringo Deathstarr have played Japan already and are headed over to Europe this summer because “Europeans [are] into what we [are] doing,” according to Frazier. He rightly notes that many of the groups they sound like are British (like Yuck). They will be touring all summer long, and recording again in the fall, trying to build on the insane buzz currently surrounding them. Just don’t go see them at Red 7, okay?