Isn’t Lidl great? I love Lidl. I never knew I even wanted frichadellen or peppers stuffed with greek “style” cheese. Imagine my surprise when I realised how much I loved smoked mackerel with pepper corns. I never knew I needed, or even wanted, specially designed breathable wool socks or a mop that can be dismantled and stored easily under the sink. But I do, I really do!! It’s all so amazing to me. How did I ever get along without these things? Bratwurst, feta cheese, buffalo mozzarella, peppered salami…I thought these things were the stuff of dreams. The kind of thing you only find in the fridge at your rich uncle’s gaff. The one who no one in the family knows exactly what he does. He’s an engineer of some sort, he puts roofs on things that they said couldn’t be roofed. I heard he put the roof on a shed once in India. The building collapsed alright but the roof is still there, standing atop the rubble like a big corrugated hat. He had an Apple Mac instead of a calculator or abacus and that was in 1990 for christ sake.
Yes Lidl – thanks a million for opening my eyes and broadening my horizons. I never knew how many types of cheese there were. I thought, like all kids of my up bringing and generation that there were two types of cheese – the one that comes in slices covered in thin plastic and the type that comes in a block. I thought cheddar was a word like pasteurised. It doesn’t mean anything it just always comes before milk or cheese. The way the word “troubled” always came before the words Paul McGrath or “war torn” always came before the word Balkans.
And yet, whenever I buy bread from lidl I’m disappointed. And sausages too. Why is that? It’s at that moment it hits you. Lidl is great at doing weird shit you haven’t heard of but when you go to get the pre-celtic tiger bear necessities like butter, and corn flakes it’s just lacking somehow. It’s not quite right. It’s similar but it’s similar in the same way that Go Bots just weren’t quite Transformers. It’s just not quite The Real Ghostbusters, ya know?
That brings me neatly to Red Fang.
Red Fang are essentially an old fashioned rock band. You don’t get too many of them around any more. They sit comfortably in the middle mid-stoner rock shelf. Stoner rock is such a shitty term but basically they play the kind of slightly 70s infused guitar rock that’s big and boisterous and sounds best while stoned. And that’s fine. Plenty of music sounds better while high. Next time you’ve gotten wrecked on a scaldy bar of shitty hash try lashing on Dance of the Lords by Prokofiev. See if you don’t simultaneously laugh your arse off while rocking out in a gentile and classical manor. Red Fang like most stoner rock fore runners haven’t got the longest of attention spans, perhaps this is the defining aspect of stoner rock, not the sound or the riffs, but the ADHD approach to music which means that they try plenty of different angles of attack and change tone and tempo quite often. This keeps things interesting on one hand, but it also grates a bit at times. There’s no coherent flow to this and to many stoner rock albums. It fires off at different angles which is fine – some of my favourite records seem to be wilfully oblique. And oblique is fine so long as someone has an eye on the overall accumulative effect of this on the listener. With Red Fang, however, there never really seems to be anyone at the helm steering or having a clue where to head next and the result is more of a thrown together mess rather than a carefully plotted experience. That’s also not a complete album killer because when Red Fang get things right they can write really catchy songs which have within them the power to surprise and engage. It’s when things don’t go so well that the problems become overpowering.
All to often Red Fang fall into the trap of sounding too much like their influences. Unfortunately there are far too many moments which sound like a second rate Queens Of The Stone Age or even worse one or two songs even sound like it could have fit perfectly on any of the last three Foo Fighters records – and that is fucking unforgivable in my book. In these instances the issues outweigh the positives and as such it really made me want to listen to Rated R or Songs For The Deaf or Kyuss’s Welcome To Sky Valley. If Whales and Leeches had any real lasting effect on me it made me more impressed with the Josh Homme’s ability to write a catchy tune.
The bottom line for me is that if Red Fang were on a major label I’d be accusing them of falling into the category of what I like to call ‘Google Rock’ a phrase I’ve coined to describe bands such as Savages who manage to worm themselves into your “suggestions” bar on youtube etc when you listen to The Cure, The Birthday Party, Joy Division and Siouxsie and The Banshees. Or Yuck somehow sneak into a party of early to mid 90s alternative bands. These bands bring nothing to the table except an ability to ape their predecessors and have enough clout behind them to actually invade your browser from time to time. And frankly fuck them. All of them. Do something new or fuck off and work on a time machine.
And yes I’m sure I’ll be ranting about this more in the future.
It’s all a wee bit unfortunate, because when Red Fang escape the shadow of their lineage they manage to craft some really damn fine songs. Perhaps that’s what’s keeping me from completely damning them with the label of Google Rock rather than faint praise. I do believe they may one day make a damn fine record. So if nothing else there is certainly signs of promise here.
So in closing, like the aforementioned German supermarket, the effect is that what’s odd – and to be fair to them there is plenty of odd stuff here – is great, but everything that feels familiar just feels a little wrong and disappointing. Which is a great pity.