CD Review

Red Expendables - "Red Expendables"

By Kim Kraft

Red ExpendablesIf I had to describe the Red Expendables album in one word, that word would have to be "familiar." From the moment the sample that is the first track, Paul Pauli... ends, you swear that you've heard the CD before. I guess that it's the Seattle tone of the "Reds" music that I find so familiar. After being exposed to the likes of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, you tend to equate the Red Expendables with their musical styles; the long, drawn and distorted undertones of the guitars. Of course, being based in East Rutherford, it is possible that I have actually heard them before either in a dimly lit bar in the North of NJ, or as an opener for a larger venue like the Birch Hill Rock Club in Old Bridge.

The first couple of tracks on their CD leave you with a "Yeah, OK" feeling -nothing that you haven't heard before. You can hear the tightness in the band, and know that they have talent, you just wonder where they are hiding it behind the typical Pop/Grunge sound of tracks like So Sincere and Bellevue Girls.

Track 6, however, is a welcome surprise. Zagreb uses mellow violin, a jack-in-the-box, distorted piano samples and clean bass sounds to create a truly enjoyable and atmospheric piece of music. I've been a sucker for the violin/electric guitar sound since I first heard of Charlie Daniels, and I think that the "Reds" have done well to select this kind of track for the CD. I only question its position on the CD -- perhaps the song hasn't worked for them during live performances and they were a little uneasy putting it toward the beginning of the CD. I don't know - I just think that it could have been Track #1, and it may have changed my opinion on the familiarity of the CD.

The following track, Downtime, immediately brings back images of Jim Morrison with its old-tyme organ synth sounds and droning, monotonic vocals. I can see this track appearing on a dark, vampiric movie soundtrack of some sort. Nice feel to it. I'm not a card-carrying member, so we will have to consult with Pan as to whether this track could be considered "Gothic" or not.

Palookaville returns to the original impressions of the CD, with the grungy Seattle sounding guitars. Maybe this is what the band was after, but to me the mix appeared to be a little wrong, the drums are way too loud in this song, and the cymbals just pierce your ears with their high resounding crashes.

The rest of the album, with songs such as Tightrope, One Regret and Overload find the Red Expendables experimenting with different sounds such as vocal effects or hard hitting classic rock sounds. Pushing returns you to the droning, grunge sound of the initial tracks of the album where you would swear that Eddie Vetter's brother was singing vocals for them.

Overall, I find that the Red Expendables are a tight, talented band. I think that the sound that they have chosen to play just doesn't fit them, or at least it doesn't fit my tastes. But hey, I'm only one person.

I would rate Red Expendables on a scale of 1 to 5 as a 3. It is certainly not the worst album that I have heard, far from it, but I just feel that the "Reds" can do better than the tracks here. This album seems to be a roller coaster ride through the band's psyche as they grapple to find exactly what they want to do with their music. Perhaps this is it, not ever settling on a particular style but rather exploring - I can certainly respect that. I would recommend this album to anyone who appreciates the Seattle Sounds like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains.

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