UTR016 | Digipack CD | 10 tracks, 42 mins | 19 Nov 2007 | Buy
'Red State' is the band's debut full-length album, recorded at home in bedrooms and basements from rural South Dakota to Los Angeles. It is an intense, sometimes eerie, always affecting listen, some of the tracks drift like fog, others are driven forward by Corey's kinetic percussive glory.
Opener 'Fargo' immediately sets the scene, it's lush shimmering whisper and Erika's accelerating vocal rush head first into the crushed ballad 'Rope', with its scrambled electronics and blurred conversations of clipped noise and Ezra's claustrophobic delivery. 'Red State' is an ambitious record trying to capture a hidden truth that we all stare through each day.
'White Like Heaven' is the pivotal moment of the album. Its story driven epiphany lays reality bare amongst the quiet murmur of disconnecting inputs and fevered drones, which submit to all-consuming crescendos of spectral sound, before the drums flail into the foreground, exploding in joyous abandon.
"Was it white like heaven or dark like space? Was it bright like God or ace black spades?"
The same song provides a vision of America that is felt across the whole album. A profound dislocation and alienation from the routine of the everyday drives the distant narrator to inspect small town America from behind the curtains.
"I saw the man outside walking his dog mowing his lawn and the kids out in the yard, and I knew right then that she was gonna have another baby let it grow up in front of the TV eat macaroni and cheese".
These differing lyrical approaches – the inward looking, the social commentator – are also reflected by contrasting use of sounds and song structure throughout the record, felt most strongly in the album's two extremes. The brutal heights, punishing drums and digital hell of 'Mercy' are drawn in sharp contrast with 'Clawless', a tender a capella number from Erika whose hushed words express vulnerability whilst an undercurrent of anxiety leaks into the song.
'Cherylee' is an appropriate closing song for such a reflective and poignant record, beating a lonesome tremulous path into the depths of a mixed up psyche Ezra and Erika wail sombrely over its pulsating piano and drum flickers. Before long the track retreats into abstraction and sprained feedback out of which a truly strident and song emerges.
"You gotta look it in the eyes and say that I don't believe, you gotta hold it underwater so you'll see where it bleeds, you gotta stare into the mirror until you name this disease, you gotta know"
Gowns are the last transmission from base camp. They are the crazed relative the family hides away, the blinding light leaking out of the locked room. They can explain everything if you listen closely.