Encroaching middle-age has been a recurrent theme in American punk rock recently. Where so many of their contemporaries fixate on the bittersweet reminiscences and regrets of growing older, though, Oklahoma’s Red City Radio are more than happy to get on with making the most of the road ahead. Eschewing existential angst to steer a path through life’s inevitable beauty and horror, fourth album Paradise finds them celebrating the possibility of the present. Or, as the outstanding Did You Know so tantalisingly puts it, ‘Did you know how wonderful this life can be, when you don’t give a shit about anything, or anyone, like me?’
“[It’s] about finding your own paradise – even if that’s just a hard journey you’re going to take,” explains frontman Garrett Dale. “That’s what paradise means to me – a paradise of the mind, finding truth and peace and love through your honest, horrible realities. It’s all how you look at it, all perception. Paradise can even be a prison if you look at it that way.”
Accordingly, the overwhelming vibe is one of defiant positivity. While there is, admittedly, a whiskey-warm melancholia as opener Where Does The Time Go repeats its titular mantra, with Garret’s gravelly vocals evoking Hot Water Music at their most maudlin, it’s the smouldering slow-burn into the bright-burning main body of the record. From there, combining the gritty blue-collar punk of The Menzingers, The Hold Steady and The Gaslight Anthem with a little of blue-eyed soul, Baby Of The Year, Love A Liar and Young, Beautiful & Broke nail a head-banging, arse-shaking sweet spot.
Somehow, Paradise only gets better from there. ‘Why is the world on fire?’ asks the damningly prophetic 100,000 Candles, while Edmond Girls counterpoints with a portrait of faded romance delivered with percussive poignancy. At nearly six minutes, the title-track is by far the longest on the album, but it’s loaded with high-impact, life-affirming substance. Rolling in on Thin Lizzy-esque harmonised guitars, Doin’ It For Love unfolds with the sort of loose stadium swagger that would do Bruce Springsteen himself proud. Then Fremont Casino carries off its washed-out Americana with clapping hands and beating heart, before Gutterland races to the finish-line with 157 seconds of barn-burning attitude.
Ultimately, of course, Red City Radio offer little in the way of cutting-edge sound. But celebration can be just as good as innovation – especially when it’s delivered with a much authenticity and punch as this.
For fans of: Hot Water Music, The Lawrence Arms, The Menzingers
Paradise is out now via Pure Noise
Posted on December 5th 2020, 3:01p.m.