the trios [debut album Ed] is a trans-generational hookup between Joe Jackson Band and New Pornographers
they play refreshingly reductive, rousing pop
theyre upstanding, up-tempo, uproarious, and upstaging other new wave/power pop outfits
they transcend trite indie lyrical fare, too
THE BIG TAKEOVER Issue 69
Sycamore Smith is one of the finest songwriters Upper Michigan has to offer, and if you havent delved into his sizable discography yet, I suggest you do so as soon as possible. ...Smith hasnt released solo work in the past few years, and yet we clung fiercely to hope and mp3s as the kazoo-touting troubadour toured with three-piece folk-punk group Redettes for the past few seasons. Im happy to say the mans pen is still as sharp as ever, and the brash and noisy raucous the Redettes unravel around his verses propel and support them on each song. Anthem-like opener [from debut album Ed] Jackie Oasis is classic Sycamore: strong story-telling lyrics, endlessly charming vocal delivery, and a bit outlandish and perverted in content. The edge that bandmates Jesse Deek and Rudy Foresburg give each song is a tightly coiled assault of garage-punk crash cymbals and punchy bass lines. Three of the songs on Ed are reimagined and reconfigured Sycamore songs (each in their own way a classic), taking what was once acoustic driven folk and stirring in a whole lot more kick. Sycamores voice has adjusted to the changes appropriately, at times replacing his usual smirking croon with a venomous yell. If he keeps writing songs like Rang-A-Tang with lyrics like Let me be the darkness you get off in, Ill keep waiting patiently for more work from these classy musicians.
The Redettes reincorporate those early Punk-era influences of [Marc] Smiths first band [The Muldoons] but its a subtle, skillful integration. As the groups brand new seven-song release Ed shows, The Redettes wouldnt have been out of place on the Stiff Records roster with its casual resemblance to the Pub Rock that shadowed and occasionally intermingled with the Punk movement in 70s England (think Nick Lowe or early Elvis Costello). Fans of U.K. faves The Libertines will also appreciate the Reds literature-inspired lyrics and swagger (though the Reds swagger is much more chill and harmonious). The melodic, unfussy straightforwardness also shares some of the impish charm of Jonathan Richmans influential Modern Lovers and you can hear a tinge of 70s Power Pop artists like The Only Ones and The Undertones. While theres a rootsy, twangy aura it is rarely blatant.
Though delivered with a high level of skill, the band has an endearing shagginess that helps give the songs an extra boost of immediacy and energy. Smiths wit still comes through on certain tracks (see:Im up to my earballs in debt), but its the imagery and wordplay that is most impressive, such as this snippet from The Brothers Ape : They forge their daggers with their fists/And sharpen razors on their wrists/Cobras lift their heads and hiss/To cheer the Brothers Ape. If this music thing doesnt work out, Smith could just collect his songs words together, release them as a book and become a professional poet.