Red Edmund

review by Cristy Scoggins and William Gillespie

Cristy: Ah...the mid-1990s. Before Nickelback and Limp Bizkit clogged up radio with generic tattooed sludge, the rock that rose from Nirvana's Pacific-Northwestern ash was everywhere. Exquisite Sunny Day Real Estate. Mellow Toad the Wet Sprocket. And, of course, Radiohead B.C. (Before Critical-darlingness). St. Louis/Bloomington's Red Edmund hearkens back to that glorious time period.

A trio consisting of Cory Graddy (guitar, vocals, keyboards, songwritng), Tim Lyons (bass, vocals) and Chad Geiser (drums, vocals, trumpet), Red Edmund wear those mid-1990s influences on the their sleeves—their bold cover of Radiohead's “Planet Telex” (from The Bends) is part of their live show. In fact, their eponymous CD is rife with the Pablo Honey-era Radiohead sound.

When you listen to this album, especially a few times, you can tell that Red Edmund are trained musicians. Not just rock musicians, but classically trained in some form. Songs like “Taking Me Down” employ some jazziness in their chords. “Foot to Mouth” is poppy stuff, like Red Kross or Spoon, while “Lamp Lit” sneaks in a calypso/lounge sound with some well-timed horns toward the end.

W: That’s a coolly peculiar moment at the end of “Lamp Lit;” the festive quality of the music seems at odds with the darkness in the lyrics. That song has a complex vocal melody; the guitar solo is well-crafted. There’s a strong sense of teamwork in the arrangements, instruments fusing into solid red-lollipop, power trio polish. Drum patterns seem sensitive to song structures. Even the vocals usually refuse to foreground themselves. An evil innocence exists in the harsh articulation of the lyrics, hopping from gravel to tone. Graddy's voice is distinctive—if on task—and its unique character may help define the band’s sound.

C: Especially for Sunny Day Real Estate fans. Craddy's voice, a nasal, intense timbre, is a lot like Jeremy Enigk's. It shines in the slow, mellower songs, like “Eraser.” It's the standout track of the album, mellow and subtle—and it makes the most of everybody’s musicianship.

W: Guitar technique throughout allows for broad strokes but delicate textures as well.  Only rarely does it scream, “I am rock guitar!” It doesn’t behave like a lead instrument, which is refreshing. Horns and keyboards are deployed gently to add extra notes, harmonic details to complicate the rock. Every note and beat seem intentional. The CD features four additional guitarists, few of whom seem to engage in any sort of heroics, suggesting that the band knows what they want.  It’s not about the rockers. There is a solo in “Taking me Down” that seems improvised, but the mix gives it subtlety.

I totally respect that the musicians seem in service of the instruments which are in service of the songs. But I have the same trouble that I have with Radiohead—I don’t know what many of the songs are about. They sound different from each other, but I don’t know why. It’s headphone music, not campfire music. The songs cannot be extracted from their arrangements or distilled to an essential message.

C: Thank god for that. Sometimes I just don't care about the message. In the immortal words of Twisted Sister, “I wanna rock!”

W: It's not writers’ music, I guess.

C: These are accomplished musicians who pay attention to chords and tempos, which means the songs are communicating moods, not words.

W: It’s definitely a CD to live with for awhile, not to listen to three times, then review. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

C: (listening to “Foot to Mouth” for the third time, breaks into song, off-key): “Run away with me toni-i-i-i-i-ight!“”

W: Cristy, no. Stay here.

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