so i guess at this point there aren't really going to be any really good albums released for the rest of 2007, so i may as well begin my albums of the year countdown now. this is obviously based on what i've heard, which is only a snippit of all the incredible music that seems to have come out this year. i make no claim to have any authority or even a handle on all the records that have been released this year. basically, if it sounds like bruce springsteen i'll like it...anyway, and without further ado, I shall start at Number 10, and count down!
first things first....
The Hands Up! EP (Power Team)
To be honest, when local NC promotions company Cool Fishing sent us this EP at the beginning of the summer, it fell under my radar, and it got lost in the shuffle of the office, a sad fact of life for many potentially great albums coming into the hands of WQFS. When we received from WQFS favorite Team Clermont, it caught my attention a little more, itself a sad comment on the psychology of college radio and music directing. Or maybe there are just too many bands out there, and the high volume of shit we get in from artists such as Electric Chubbyland has made me awfully jaded when it comes to finding out about new bands, or even giving them the courtesy of a quick listen. However, this is one of the few records we got in the station from a band I had never heard of before that completely and utterly knocked me on my fucking ass.
The first single, “Hands Up,” was somewhat catchy upon first listen, but as I sat through the rest of the EP, I was blown away at the depth, passion, and honesty present in each and every song. It became evident that no college radio campaign could appropriately explore the complexities of this band, complexities which provide the platform on which Red Collar seem poised to take the torch as the next great American band…At least in the state of North Carolina. Red Collar are probably at their best when they’re tugging on your heartstrings, which the dancey post-punk of the “Hands Up” single doesn’t quite capture. That song sounds a little more like a market strategy than a good reflection of what this band is truly capable of.
Speaking of heartstrings, for example, using the metaphor of selling used guitars as a way of mourning the sad realization of the mortality of the American teenage punk rock dream. For someone such as myself who is terrified about growing up, or “giving up,” the tension of which they explore in “Used Guitars,” this release speaks volumes. With this release, Red Collar achieve that rare accomplishment for any group of punkers who are growing up; letting your inner punk grow up with you. Instead of getting jaded and selling their record collection for beer money, they are busy learning more, taking in and sharing wisdom and honesty through song and live performance, and never giving up. Growing up in the DC punk scene, I often felt like there was a very low ceiling on what was deemed as acceptable personal growth if you hoped to retain your punk credibility. Red Collar shatter that ceiling to pieces, and say fuck it, let’s start our own thing.
Songs such as “Witching Hour” make it clear they grew up listening to Fugazi and Rites Of Spring, while songs such as “Stay” feature an indescribable mixture of influences that I can’t quite my finger on, although old Small Brown Bike certainly comes to mind. Like Springsteen, they never judge, they just explore, they ask questions, and they tell stories. They somehow manage to combine the impossible-to-package-and-sell qualities of The Clash, the devotion to DIY culture and ethics of Fugazi, the young, anxious, and stuck in a town full of losers restlessness of the Boss, and the dancey catchiness of Q And Not U. yet they’re never above the audience. They struggle with life and its hard lessons just like everyone else in the room. As one review said, “they’re no bar band, they’ve learned too much.” Plus they’re some of the nicest people ever, and they fully deserve your attention. So put your hands up and give it to them!!
Listen: “Used Guitars” “Stay” “Witching Hour”