Read Yellow aren’t the new saviors of indie rock. They aren’t trying to make all the hipsters dance. They’re not going back to their early American roots. They’re not retro-anything. They don’t shoegaze. They’re not post-dissonant-abrasive-pseudo-noise-proto-metal core. Read Yellow is none of these things, as their objective is much more simple and straightforward: to rock your defenseless, unsuspecting bones until it hurts.
Read Yellow’s Radios Burn Faster doesn’t screw around with pretentious experimentation or genre hybridizing. They’re simply a loud rock band that knows only one volume — deafening. Often compared to bands like And You Will Know Us by The Trail of Dead and At the Drive-In, Read Yellow’s plan is to inject just enough angularity to keep from teetering into either straight hardcore or arena rock. A more fitting comparison of late would be the Icarus Line, though without the prog leanings.
“The Association” starts the album with some no-nonsense four-four pummeling, as vocalist Evan Kenney shouts “Will you swallow me whole?” The next track, “Model America” apes the opening bassline of Joy Division’s “Transmission” before charging up, Trail of Dead-style, and veering into pseudo-political polemics (“I’ve been the face and the fury of this crippled land!“).
And though the majority of the album remains smart without sinking into forced pretense, occasionally, the band likes to dispense with the punk aesthetics and play some balls-to-the-wall rawk. “Fashion Fatale” takes a page right out of AC/DC’s book, all power chords and testosterone. One can’t help but wonder, however, if the joke’s on us, as the lyrics include lines like “I haven’t felt this much alive since that Van Halen concert in 1985.” It’s funny, sure, but the band’s execution is so dead-on that it almost seems believable. Later on in the album, in “Static,” Read Yellow takes on brutal grindcore, injecting a dose of gut-wrenching metal into their otherwise straight-shooting sound.
One thing that should be noted about Read Yellow is that bassist Michelle Freivald contributes vocals in about one-third of the songs on the album. It’s not often that women take part in this style of music, and for that, I applaud them. But Kenney still takes center stage when it comes to fronting the band.
Listen up, punks. If you want sassy, dancey or experimental, go somewhere else. But if you’re ready to take on some serious rock `n’ roll, Read Yellow is your band.
At the Drive-In – Relationship of Command
Sparta – Wiretap Scars
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Source Tags & Codes
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.