The Redwalls were teenagers when Capitol Records plucked them from the Chicago suburbs to tour the world with heavyweights such as Oasis. They turned adults the hard way: Recent victims of Capitol’s industry-shaking merger with Virgin, the Redwalls became free agents, but not before spending major-label cash for this third record, recorded last fall in Sweden with Franz Ferdinand/Cardigans producer Tore Johansson.
The result is a stylistic leap, with flashes of electronic dance, gauzy psychedelics and grinding guitar jams. The album-opening “Hangman” sets the course, a sleazy shouter featuring the band’s prime weapon, singer and guitarist Logan Baren, whose voice is a paradox of arrogance and sweetness, making him one of the most compelling singers of his generation.
This is the career evolution the Strokes were fated to follow but never did. The Redwalls step past the Faces/Stones formula their first two albums were built upon to show off a wider pop vocabulary, including fleshy soul grooves (“You Can’t Forget Yourself”), spinning psychedelics (“Into The Maelstrom”) and bursting pop choruses (“Summer Romance”).
The Redwalls are a sibling band, and the harmonies are tight; you’d swear during “Put Us Down” that there are flashes of Lennon-McCartney in the vocal interlocking between Logan and his bassist brother Justin.
Johansson can’t help but turn the band into Franz Ferdinand at least once (“Don’t You Wanna Come Out”), but that comes off as more of a dare. “They say it’s all been done/And there’s really nothing new/I guess that’s just your point of view,” Logan sings. Innovation or illusion, these songs transcend both.