My Red Cell - 13 In My 31
My Red Cell are Welsh, and once more that strange and terrible land (anyone who has lived there for more than twenty years are allowed to say things like this) has spawned a monster. That word isn't used lightly, there's something terribly dark about My Red Cell. Listening to the album is like a little window opening into a world that you suspected existed, but didn't want to think about, let alone spend any time in. Listen to 'In a Cage (On Prozac)', (their current singe) you'll have some idea. The chanting, singsong, nursery rhyme like couplet of "I've got a knife, and I know how to use it" that appears between the verses is terrifying but, fuck me, you think, they mean it. They know how to make you suddenly sit up and take notice and once they've got your attention they're keeping it.
And Russell Toomey, my God, there's a man who can string a sentence together and deliver it like a bomb. He's slightly reminiscent of The Crimea’s Davy Crockett, but even more deranged; imagine a sort of cross between Mr Crockett and, say, Daffy Duck when he's on fire. Now imagine this combination is in a temper - not a 'I'm going to rip your head off' sort of a temper, but the sort of temper tantrum that leads to tears and kicking at the floor. Then imagine them singing about suicide, murder, insanity, paranoia and death. And yet, this is one of the most uplifting and exciting records this year despite the often bleak lyrics, and what superb lyrics they are. They're poetry. Listen to the almost Alan Bennet-like "I ain't mad with you darling/Just a little disappointed" from Knock Me Down or the chilling "It's a dangerous world/It's a dangerous wo-orld/But my mind scares me more" from Whisper The Fear.
At first, it takes a few listens to get over the barrage of abuse from Toomey and the massive power chord heavy choruses. After a while, though, the construction of the songs starts to shine through; There's all sorts of melody's, riffs and hooks buried beneath the surface and snippets of things lifted and borrowed from all over. There's Aerosmith, AC/DC, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and Free buried in there somewhere, to name but a few of them, but they're all neatly hidden inside little packets of 'California-style punk' which has never sounded this exciting and, dare we say, fresh? The Welsh have stolen American Punk and they ain't giving it back. And despite those influences mentioned earlier, you could never in a million years call them retro, rather it sounds as though it were born the very second you play it.
You could tear it apart, and try to analyze it, but you'd never really get to the bottom of it. The production, certainly, is clinically precise, every bass line, guitar riff, drum fill and solo has been polished to a shiny piece of perfection and slotted neatly into place. Take Going Out For Nothing, which consists of a main riff that could have been stolen from an outtake of the recording of Led Zeppelin II, a two-chord rhythmic chunk-a-long that sounds instantly familiar. There's loads of other elements buried in there, though, like a harmony that echoes over a key change at the end of the chorus that extends it just enough to provide a hook. By the time you get to this chorus, the guitar has become a wheezing pump, barely audible under the bass and drum lines. Simple, yet it takes a band of genius to keep things this simple, and then you've got those vocals sitting on top - "Open the windows open the doors/Hang from the ceiling jump through the floors" sung in almost rockabilly fashion for a second, before the main punk-lite chant of the song kicks in. It's these little snippets of brilliance that'll glue this CD in your player. Head In The Ground is the best single of the year, if ever it gets released as a single, and if it doesn't then more fool someone. Structurally, if not musically, it's similar to Smells Like Teen Spirit, consisting of a simple bass line that builds, adds guitars for the bridge and then keeps building before exploding into an absolutely shit-kicking chorus and then repeats to devastating effect.
You could also pick on Whisper The Fear, once more, to provide more evidence of brilliance. A warn sing-along, harmony that plays over a dark guitar slab. The first twenty seconds of Her Religion could have come from any Aerosmith album circa 1974 before it mutates into an updated Zep-esque shout-a-long American Punk hybrid thing of sheer brilliance. Tell Me Nice with its vocal harmonies and clean, economic guitar riffs and squeals and the main vocal squeezed out from Toomey's super-weird vocal chords which are perfectly suited to a riff like this. Like a sort of Stones track if Jagger and been swallowing razor blades while sipping from a helium balloon. Oh, and there's a bonus track as well, fifteen minutes after the last song to look out for which shows another, more mellow, side to the band and ends the album on a haunting note.
This is an amazing album. Layer after layer to be unpeeled and discovered. Fresh, exciting, and sounding like a band assured of much success should that be what they want. NME reckons they’re one of the most important bands of next year, and they might well be right. There's not been a rock album as brilliant and as well crafted as this one for quite a while and there probably won't be another along for years. It's essential, and it goes without saying you should buy it. A band to get excited about that isn't trading on the past, merely re-inventing it and running it out of control with it - On Prozac, probably.