Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Artist: Spinning Red

Artist: Spinning Red

On their self-titled debut EP, Spinning Red proudly display the influences that make them what they are today. What animates this collection, and what makes it eclectic, is that the influences span every decade, or at least the ones that matter, i.e. the guitar decades.

Courtesy of guitarist/founding member Art Rento, the riff intro of Spinning Red's "Stop and Go" pays proper homage to "Purple Haze"-era Hendrix (1967). The 70's was disco, so no one cares. Spinning Red's "The Void" is snarling grunge smoothed out by dark and brooding Staley/Cantrell-caliber harmonies (quite like "What the Hell Have I"); and Alice in Chains entered the recording studio for Facelift in 1989. And on "Judy Two Moons," Spinning Red perfects the ska punk storytelling of Sublime circa 1995's "Date Rape."
Spinning Red is chameleon-like in their ability to blend into whatever guitar genre they're inhabiting. Mark Burd is just as proficient at Weiland rock vocals as he is in owning both of the prototypical punk vocals (on "Judy Two Moons"). And Spinning Red's tightly coiled guitar and rhythm section execute with a professional precision that's matched only by this EP's polished production.

The beginning of "The Void" unfolds with moody strumming joined by haunting vocal harmonies and expressive cymbal work. The calm is devastated by the storm, an angry bass announcing aggressive riffs of distortion. When Rento's riffage relents (2/3rds of the way through), the moody intro is re-introduced, but this time it's altered -- its context darkened by climbing bass (excellent), churning guitars, and spoken word. When the vocal hook resumes, you'll note the expert percussion that amplifies Spinning Red's unique brand of melodic hard rock. (The drums are outstanding throughout this EP.)

But "Judy Two Moons" is the standout track for me. Spinning Red does punk better than most bands devoted to the genre, doing so without resorting to tired power chords. Burd is clearly cognizant of punk phrasing and melody, and double-times his vocals with effects on, slowing down with them off. Spinning Red is just as good at rock (as this EP shows); but it could be that its proficiency in musicianship and song-writing shines more brightly when viewed in light of the limitation that is the two-minute song length.

Whether Spinning Red chooses to focus on punk or rock or to continue with both, there can be no doubt that the guitar decades will forever serve as their inspiration. And in this, we will always be well-served by Spinning Red.

*** The author of this review, Philip Graham, plays the octaban for the following band:

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