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Thursday, June 23, 2005 09:02 pm

sound patrol 6-23-05

Meet the Redwalls

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The Redwalls De Nova (Capitol)

On De Nova, their second album (and major-label debut), the Redwalls deliver ’60s-era blues-based Brit rock with an audacity peculiar to the very young and the not-so-terribly bright. The quartet’s fetching mop tops, mod-inspired duds, and shameless pilfering of the classics suggest one of the following possibilities: (1) It never occurred to them that they’re from Deerfield, Ill., not Liverpool, England; (2) no one ever told them that it’s highly uncool to emulate guys who are as old as their grandpas — unless, of course, those old guys are drug-addled recluses or illiterate drunken bluesmen; (3) the brain trust at Capitol has decreed that it’s high time the pretty boys quit making like it’s 1984 and start making like it’s 1964. If the ’80s are the new ’70s, and the early-’90s grunge revival doesn’t look too promising (thank heaven for small favors!), what’s left to do but go backward, back to the days when there was an actual youth culture and said youth actually bought records?

That’s a cynic’s perspective, though, about as mean and as meaningless as the aspersions of cranky zinesters and record-store dudes, who, when introduced to the Redwalls, will no doubt snipe, “Yeah, I liked that band a long time ago, back when they were called the Beatles.” Truth be told, the Redwalls do sound an awful lot like the Beatles, even though they also sometimes sound like the Faces, the Stones, Bob Dylan, and even some totally cutting-edge new bands such as, uh, Oasis and the Black Crowes. It’s easy to be cruel when you’re wrinkly and bitter, easy to denigrate the unselfconscious passion of the earnest, easy to forget that the Beatles and all of their peers borrowed liberally from their elders, too.

The Redwalls, on the other hand, are ridiculously young — the senior member, guitarist/singer Logan Baren, is 22, and half the band can’t even drink legally. Sure, they’re derivative, and maybe it’s a tad condescending to excuse them for this on the grounds of youth: The Beatles and most of the other bands that make up the Redwalls’ sound pastiche weren’t much older when they redefined rock for a new generation. But originality is in short supply these days, and ripping off the Beatles — especially when a band does it as competently and as pleasurably as the Redwalls do — is no worse than ripping off Gang of Four, Wire, the Stooges, or any number of other currently fashionable influences. With their bar-band joie de vivre, their blowsy horn sections, their hook-happy song structures, and their delectable harmonies, the Redwalls understand that pop music is all about the pleasure principle: writing songs that kids want to sing in cars, make out to at prom, blast in their bedrooms to drown out their nagging parents. Moreover, they show a surprising and all-too-unusual political consciousness. Where most of their Blender-friendly peers affect a jaded disregard for such matters, the Redwalls, bless their little retro hearts, are penning diatribes against the FCC (the profanity-laced “Falling Down”) and antiwar ballads (the thrilling “Glory of War,” a devastating, Dylanesque reminder that kids the Redwalls’ age and younger are dying every day in a fraudulent war perpetrated by liars and oil profiteers). Of course, they’re not above the time-tested hormone bomb, the silly love song, the goofy paean to teenage kicks — could a band of thirtysomethings even get away with song titles such as “Rock & Roll” and “Hung Up on the Way I’m Feeling”? Probably not, but who cares? As a famous sexagenarian proclaimed, oh so many years ago, “The kids are alright.”

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