By Red Star
'Law And Order,' the debut album from Huddersfield's Red Star, kicks off with 'Northerners (In London Town).' This piece of low-key, laidback indie grooviness relies mainly on a strong vocal performance from frontman Will Bloy and some simple electro beats that add that extra oomph to the chorus. Although 'Northerners....' doesn't leap out of the speakers at you, it's an easy listen with an appealingly casual feel to it, and Bloy's consciously northern vocals certainly aren't lacking in charisma. A strong, if unspectacular, start.
Second track 'Love, Honour & Obey' veers more towards the rock end of the indie-rock spectrum, and is consequently more attention-grabbing than Red Star's choice of album-opener.
'Love, Honour & Obey's strongest selling point is a dizzy, irritatingly catchy riff that crops up between the end of the chorus, and the beginning of the verse, and which makes these instrumental passages unexpected song highlights. And, just when you thought that riff couldn't get any catchier, Red Star break it up with some jangling drumbeats, and it becomes even more maddeningly addictive.
The rest of the song is solid, competent rock that may leave you with the niggling feeling that 'Love, Honour & Obey' is missing something, but which delivers just enough hooks to make for enjoyable listening.
'Disco Confusion' sees Red Star strike out on a more experimental tract. Clunky cabaret piano, toe-tapping drumbeats and an interestingly theatrical twist to Bloy's vocals combine in a showtune-flavoured, jazzy indie-rock song.
What makes 'Disco Confusion' such a fun listen, is how shamelessly it embraces its cabaret leanings. It even cuts out for the sound of someone whistling 'Disco Confusion's central tune. And, of course, this song goes out on a high, with a very theatrical end-section of twinkling piano-slides and rousing cries of "I say!" at the beginning of every line. 'Disco Confusion' is the sound of a band having fun and, after a few minutes of this song's silly, Broadway-inspired bounce, you will be too.
Red Star surprise again with the classy, old school swagger of 'Woman.' This track alternates between classic-sounding riffs and crunching chords as it steadily builds to that obligatory guitar solo, which Red Star pull off with aplomb.
The strutting, cock-rock confidence of the music may jar against the repetitive and slightly obvious lyrics but, musically, 'Woman' is such an uncomplicated shot of good old-fashioned rock and roll, that you can overlook its shortcomings, and just enjoy it for what it is.
'Antique Romance' starts off strong, opening with crackly riffs and fluttery electro leading into a chorus of prominent drumbeats mashed up with bursts of jangly, riff-heavy rock. Here, Red Star are refusing to take the obvious route and they manage to pull off using two contrasting sounds in the same song.
'Antique Romance' does, however, lose its way towards the end. Red Star throw in one too many unnecessary instrumental sections, not least a bridge of robotic backing vocals and an uninspired musical backdrop that's basically just the sound of this song ticking over. 'Antique Romance' seems to build towards the mid-way point, and then has no idea where to go from there.
'Sunday Comatose' is 'Law and Order's slow number, as Red Star infuse their sound with a liberal dose of the pop ballad. Packed with shiny hooks and easy-on-the-ear, instantly likeable soft rock melodies, 'Sunday Comatose' may be about as safe as it gets, but it's also radio-ready and it's easy to imagine this one enjoying moderate success as a single.
After a very cheesy introduction, Red Star launch into the foot-tapping fun of 'Madhouse.' It's impossible not to get caught up in this song's jangling, Prozac bounce, making this one track that's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Topped off with euphoric cries of "it's a madhouse!" and odd, but catchy, backing vocals, 'Madhouse' is a definite album highlight, and showcases Red Star's habit of producing something just that little bit different from what you were expecting.
Also not quite what you were expecting, is 'Devil May Cry,' a multi-part combination of musical styles. It opens with a steady piano stomp, with vague, distorted guitars flickering around the edges. This is the sort of pleasantly undemanding tune that's supposed to let the lyrics do the talking and, although the lyrics are good, they're not really up to this sort of scrutiny, and you may find your attention wandering to more interesting things as a result.
But, just when 'Devil May Cry' is in danger of losing the listener, Red Star up the tempo with an undercurrent of heavily distorted guitar and a driving, rattling beat that kicks things back into gear. It makes for a surprisingly energetic end, especially when Red Star add some long, classy-sounding riffs to the mix. By the end of 'Devil May Cry,' you'll have completely forgotten its unengaging beginning.
'Fire' is one long introduction of sirens, bells, and what sounds like distorted screams. It's arty, unnecessary and overlong, but it's also underpinned by quite a catchy, stuttering beat. You'll only listen to this track once, and then you'll realise that it's not really a song and never listen to it again.
Oddly though, 'Fire' leads into track ten, which isn't included on the track listing but, judging by the lyrics, is probably also called 'Fire.' This song pulls the trick of using the same hooky riff over and over, hypnotising the listener before reeling them in. It's very repetitive, and a little more variety would have gone a long way, but 'Fire' proves that you can get away with playing the same riff half to death, if it's a good one.
Red Star sign off with an untitled (if the track listing is to be believed) acoustic number. Track eleven is all delicate acoustic strains meandering along in sublimely mellow fashion, which might be underwhelming, if it wasn't for the multi-layered vocal harmonies that give this song a certain twee charm. Embellished with the occasional, shiveringly distorted riff and sparkling synth, track eleven brings 'Law and Order' to an ear-soothing end.
'Law and Order' doesn't stick religiously to the same formula, which works in its favour, as there's very little here that's particularly fresh and exciting but, when Red Star are serving up something slightly different every time, the listener is unlikely to grow bored. As indie-rock acts go, Red Star are probably pretty average, but their willingness to occasionally think outside of the box, lifts this album a notch or two above the hundred-and-one acts currently vying to be the NME's next favourite band.