Rabbit!, Radioactivity, Red Skylark, Ride, Ruby Free, Ruth Good, The Rectangle Shades, The Rentals, The Resonars, The Rip Off Artists, The Riptide Movement, The Rosenbergs
Like the Proclaimers, I’m not prepared to throw the R away. Today’s post showcases a bevy of R-named acts I’ve accumulated over the years but haven’t had a chance to celebrate. Until now. Get ready for a ripping read of these records.
Let’s start things light and easy, with Rabbit! This duo offer up frothy pop tunes chock full of whimsy and positivity. “Magic” is from an early EP Connecting the Dots but everything between then and now is pretty They Might Be Giants meets Grouplove. The sonic arrangement on this song is meticulous, an aural portrait of bright sounds and striking musical contrasts. But oh so sing-along good. Look for their brand EP Happiness is Simple for more of the same. Then, for a dramatic mood change, Radioactivity kick out the Texas rock and roll jams with an adrenaline-fueled double-A side single. I love the relentless guitar riff on “Erased” that just keeps driving the hook into your head. This song is pulsing, crowd-pleasing, jump-up-and-down sort of thing. By contrast “Fear” has an ominous yet melodious hard rocking feel that I associate with Blue Oyster Cult, in a punky mood. Tennessee’s The Rectangle Shades are a time travel trip back to 1966, with amazing jangle guitar and Bryrds-worthy songwriting and singing. On “Running Out of Time” I kept expecting Jackie DeShannon to show up after every stellar hooky lead guitar line. And while this single is something special, the whole of the album Mystical Numbers is a treat. Moving over to Columbus, Ohio Red Skylark are vibing mid-1980s guitar bands from both sides of the Atlantic on their 2020 EP Run On. A bit of the Silencers, a touch of west coast Paisley a la The Three O’Clock, and whole lot that’s totally original. Check out those exquisite melodic turns and vocal harmonies in the chorus of “Soulfire Gone” or the surging jangle guitar work and ghostly vocals on “Shiver.” There’s even some Moody Blues-like group vocals on “Damned.” This is one mighty fine 14 minutes of EP.
On first listen The Rentals sound like any other good post-millennial indie band. But there’s always a twist somewhere. Like the other-worldly chorus that emerges from an otherwise swinging pop number in “Little Bit of You in Everything,” aided by a very Mary Lou Lord vocal feel, or the lyrically more esoteric but still poppy “Elon Musk is Making Me Sad.” Dip into any of the dozen or so releases from Matt Rendon as The Resonars or some other 1960s psychedelic creation and you won’t go away disappointed. Self-dubbed ‘psychedelic garage pop’ the sound is like an American mix of Rubber Soul and Revolver influences, with a bit more fuzz guitar. Check out the trippy jangle pushing “Why Does It Have to be So Hard” forward, from 2002’s Lunar Kit, for an emblematic experience. And there’s plenty more to enjoy with four LP releases of new material coming out in 2020 alone! A band of Ride’s stature hardly need any plug from me but my interest might be a bit of outlier as I really like the band’s 2017 comeback album Weather Diaries and the single “Charm Assault” in particular. The dynamic vocals arrangement combined with a guitar that sounds very The The Soul Mining is instantly addictive. Nick Pipitone wowed listeners with his 2020 concept album, Thiensville, and it was not a one-off achievement. Back in 2014 his band The Rip Off Artists released The Intercontinental, a strong collection of story tunes in the key of E, Costello and FOW. The whole album is highly listenable but I’ve got “Inside the Actor’s Studio Apartment” and “Mr. Right and Mrs. Right” on repeat.
Dublin, Ireland’s The Riptide Movement offer up a bit of four on the floor melody with their 2013 hit “All Works Out.” The sing-along chorus is just the capper to a song carried by a strong hooky lead guitar line weaved throughout the tune. There’s not much I can add to the tragic story of The Rosenbergs. Three albums of power pop gold, loved by critics but largely unknown to potential fans because the band dared speak out about how the music industry continued to screw over the talent. For an eye opening account of how corruption and payola still dominates American music read band founder David Fagin’s account of their career over on Power Popaholic. As for songs, so many great possible choices but let’s go with “Nighttime Lover.” It’s got a video. Ruby Free have two albums of self-described ‘Wings-inspired 70’s radio pop’ but I hear more of a Chris Collingwood style on “Slow Parade.” This baby is definitely the should-be hit single here – give it a few listens and you won’t be able to get it out of your head. Brothers Jonathan and Wes Parker are Ruth Good, a band named for their grandmother. The boys have got some fine blood harmony going on their recent EP Haunt, particularly the single “All My Life.” While they characterize their work as ‘slacker pop’ I hear a distinct country rock undercurrent with some Fleet Foxes ambience vocally. Past releases are also good, with “YLIE” from 2017’s Spliff EP and standout track for me.
Gotta love what R brings to the poprock table. Get caught up on these artists by clicking their hyperlinked names and checking out their internet presentations of self.