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The Reds at the Stereo Society
Record Reviews: Shake Appeal
By Nick Karim
One band that has consistently produced intelligent, stimulating music is The Reds. Their new mini-album, Shake Appeal, is no exception to this rule. Shake Appeal is produced by Mike Thorne, who is famous for his work with such bands as Wire, Soft Cell, Nina Hagen, and most recently the very successful Bronski Beat. Thorne’s production highlights the keyboards of Bruce Cohen, and provides an ambiance that was absent on The Reds’ earlier albums Fatal Slide and their self-titled debut.
The Reds have trimmed their lineup by two and now have just the two core members, Bruce Cohen and Rick Shaffer. Cohen explains, ‘Two people leaves us open to lot more things to do and stuff to experiment with.’ The Reds have been consistent in the delivery of their music, avoiding the trends and pioneering their own path. ‘We will always rock!’ insists Cohen. ‘I mean, I don’t want to get caught in the trap of saying ‘this is the trend for this month – let’s be like that.’ That doesn’t get you anywhere. That stuff lasts like a big dance-club hit and you’re heroes for six weeks that then that’s it.’
The six year history of the band proves that they can endure, and will continue to do so in the future. It is obvious that The Reds’ music is geared towards the dark side of life, similar to New Order and Joy Division, but Cohen becomes irate when the band’s lyrics are called depressing. He says forcefully, ‘I don’t think they (the lyrics) are really depressing; I think we’re just being hones with ourselves, being honest with other people; we’re not going to sing songs about the loves in our lives, we sing songs about people’s inner conflicts amongst themselves, rather than in a relationship with another person. Or like politics, it’s about the inner suppression of anger or sadness that they have within themselves.’ Doesn’t this abstinence from politics make one interpretation of their name redundant? Politics are just an extension of people, and by singing about inner conflict, The Reds cover all the politics they care to.
With their new mini-album, The Reds are testing the waters with their new record company, Sire, and Shake Appeal is the precursor for an album due to arrive early next year. The Reds plan to slowly motivate their loyal following by word of mouth and extensive touring. Commercial success will hopefully follow, but the most important thing for this band is to satisfy their current fans. If they can do this, they will have achieved an important goal. Cohen says, ‘If you do it any other way you’ll go crazy, and we’ve been crazy and we don’t want to go through it again.’
The Reds: Shake Appeal. (Sire/WEA)
The Reds have to be considered one of the most cruelly overlooked bands in American rock. After a strong debut LP and EP on A&M, follow-up albums appeared independently on the Stony Plain label, but never reached the audience they deserved, especially the superb Fatal Slide. Now The Reds have signed to Sire, but are only allowed a five-cut mini-LP in which to display their wares, and that is just not enough for a band of this calibre. Obvious influences here are The Doors and Iggy Pop, while Beat Away recalls the brooding power of Joy Division. Nick Shaffer’s resonant guitar complements his booming vocals, while Bruce Cohen’s keyboards are boosted up in the mix by producer Mike Thorne. Perhaps The Reds’ real problem is a name guaranteed to attract hostility in these right wing days, but they should be given more chances to shake some action.
Rating: * * *
(by Karry Doole)
Canada’s Number One Music Trade
The Record Reviews
The Reds – Shake Appeal – Sire 24 04261 (WEA). A rough and ready garage band with a cult following, and previous releases on A&M and Stony Plain (who says it’s a folk label?). The Reds are now a two-piece (Rick Shaffer on guitar and vocals, Bruce Cohen on keyboards, and – for this record – guest drummer Mike Spain). Better still, the band has enlisted Mike Thorne’s production services for this five-cut mini-album, and now they have a commercial shot. It’s tense and powerful stuff – alternate stations will find Laughing and Till the End candidates for play.