The self-produced and self-financed debut album from a bunch of socialist folk-punkers from North Wales who will bring down the system or fall asleep trying!
So we can safely say we are into the new year in full swing with this our first review of 2018. Released on new year’s day it’s not yer typical celtic-punk but seeing as how Red Or Dead hail from the Celtic stronghold of north Wales it certainly justifies its place here. While musically its from the same sort of path as ‘festie’ bands like The Levellers, Folk The System or even Ferocious Dog it sticks pretty much to the more modern standard of what passes for folk-punk and while I think it could benefit from a few celtic flourishes it’s fine as it is! The band formed only a couple of years after meeting while protesting outside a UKIP conference. Folk has long been a way for people to push for change and in fact the folk scene could do with a real dose of it now.
Trotsky Waltz begins with ‘I Am The Fire’ and if they weren’t indeed Welsh then I would be bringing the names of some classic English folk-rock bands into the equation. The most stand out thing after first listen is the use of a cajon which is one of those wooden boxes that people sit on and tap and thump instead of having a drummer. This means that it doesn’t ever really fly off into punk remaining solidly within folk. It’s a rousing start to proceedings though and its always sensible to start with a standout track I think. Lyrically its all a bit right on but does at least manage not to fall into cliche, or even worse parody. Robs vocals are strong and with Gala’s backing the two of them work brilliantly together. The following two tracks first appeared on their debut EP from last year and both have been improved on significantly. ‘No One Is Innocent’ sees Gala take over on vocals and she has a certain anarcho-punk sound to her voice reminding me of early Chumba’s perhaps. Looking back I think lot of what we called anarcho-punk back in the day would now be classed as folk-punk. Back when I first going to pubs when I was just a young spotty punk rocker the pubs and clubs use to be full of socialist folky bands, or at least the ones I went to, and how Red Or Dead would have loved those days.
(listen to their debut release below)
‘Watch It Burn’ is like the rest of the album a call to arms, or at least the street and I will try not to overuse the word ‘catchy’ here though it is going to be hard. Gala belts out the angry ‘In America’ and its on songs like these that the band could benefit from a drummer to give the songs a bit of extra bite. Nevertheless it still trips along nicely until Rob chimes in with
“Land of the free? Fuuuuuck Off! Land of the rich white man”
bawled out and follows a rant about the state of the nation over there in the USA. I do wonder though how Obama fits into this narrative of the “rich white man” seeing how many dead bodies he was responsible for around the world? ‘Colin Cambridge’ slows it all down and chucks in something you don’t often hear in modern day music of any genre… whistling!
(here is ‘Colin Cambridge’… minus the whistling though!)
In a song that is crying out for tin whistle I suppose you got to go with what you got in a song about privileged people who go on to do nothing with their lives. The best song since the opener is up next with ‘Steeltown’ and is a simple track beginning with acoustic guitar and mandolin and Rob singing over the top about the decimation of the working class and their industries. Coming from a coal-mining family myself I can only agree that it was the Tories and Labour who share the blame for screwing the working class. Its often been said that the Conservatives defend their class and Labour hate theirs. Wales is owed a hell of a lot by the Labour Party for a loyalty that was never deserved. ‘A New Day’ is yer standard victory is in sight song but wishful thinking methinks. While the left is obsessed by poisonous identity politics we are going absolutely nowhere.
‘Never Again’ is a well cliched song title but the song manages to be both angry and gentle and I love that they name check Jimmy Reid the old Scots trade unionist.
“Never again will I bow down to a false ideal or a faded crown”
‘All The World’ plays more of the same and for once the politics take a bit of a back seat. With influences from across punk you can hear The Clash loud and proud within ‘Travel Home’ which comes over as a tribute to ‘Armagideon Time’ and in the following song, ‘Strummer And Burnel’, Rob pays his debt to the heroes who inspired him into a life of music. Bemoaning, and quite rightly, the quality of both today’s music and today’s protest.
“Students they don’t march no more the middle class won that war”
Catchy and thoughtful and with a nice bit of electric guitar that threatens to rock out but just resists. We are coming up towards the final bend and ‘Living In A Life’ is another standout number here and I feel they could certainly rock out more on numbers like this. Would still be a real foot tapper live but just in need of a little extra oomft! The album comes to an end with ‘Make A Stand’ and is the perfect way to end things with a ‘lighter waving in the air’ song.
So a whopping thirteen songs that come in at a also whopping forty-five minutes and if I’m being honest then I would say the album may have benefited from being maybe two or three songs shorter. While the cajon is absolutely fine live it does get a wee bit thumpy on disc and dare I say it monotonous. The music is catchy and solid and lyrics are straight from the heart and sometimes burn with passion making you wish the music was a bit up there too. The major criticism people have of folk-punk is that it is boring but Red Or Dead steer well clear of that and the album is very well paced and recorded with a clear and crisp production too. Unashamedly left-wing and idealistic they are the sort of band that would appeal to fans of all the usual suspects of festival bands and may well pop up playing at a political benefit near you at anytime soon.
(you can listen to the entirety of Trotsky Waltz for *FREE* below on the Bandcamp player)
Buy Trotsky Waltz
Contact Red Or Dead