Monday, May 30, 2011

Red - Innocence & Instinct Album Review

This was originally published on January 29, 2009 at Decoy Music. Re-visiting albums (and their corresponding reviews) brings about many new thoughts about these albums. It is very rare that I hold the same opinion of an album both when I first listen to it and when I give it another spin months or years later. With this album, I have grown beyond it and, despite it being good for what it was at the time, it has not aged well or even been something I've thought about giving another listen. It faded away, demonstrating the lack of longevity that most modern hard rock bands suffer from.

It’s extremely easy to write off modern hard rock bands, often noting how they’re unoriginal, create music just for mass consumption, and don’t possess a modicum of depth. Each and every band that even remotely sounds like Nickelback or Hinder are immediately panned by critics, almost by default, because critics know they can’t possibly praise something that would appeal to the lowest common denominator, otherwise thought of as people who listen to rock radio while in their trucks driving to a local monster truck rally while hanging out with their 13 year old girlfriend. Listening to the radio isn’t bad in and of itself, but if you’re not listening to NPR, satellite radio, or an indie station then you’re not in the know when it comes to understanding good music, at least in the minds of critics. Since this is so ingrained in music critic circles, it’s hard to imagine modern rock bands even care about critical appeal anymore and with good reason—it’s a futile endeavor. Still, every now and again there is a band that defies their pedigree to, at the very least, grow beyond the artificial boundaries placed around them because of the genre of music to which their “sound” belongs. Red, on End of Silence, defied expectations and expanded beyond the nu-metal trappings that should have had their disc getting panned left and right. Breaking out of the realm of mediocrity once is commendable, but can they do it twice? Oddly, the answer is not very clear cut.

With Innocence & Instinct Red sound almost exactly the same as they did two and a half years ago. Any growth between their two major releases is completely negligible. Sticking to their mix of Linkin Park (sans rapping), Trapt, and 12 Stones influenced hard rock and nu-metal combination, every song on this album could easily be placed between any two tracks on End of Silence and not feel the least bit out of place. Once again, the most notable aspect of Red are the vocals of Mike Barnes. His crooning, mid-range tenor is put to good use belting out catchy choruses and flowing verses. What ultimately drags him down, however, is the continued notion that he needs to attempt to yell. Thankfully most of his yelling is minimal and doesn’t overtly affect Red's songs.

Keeping in mind the lack of progression between albums, Red have created a few noteworthy moments on Innocence & Instinct, some bad and some good, often both within the same song. You can feel the band grasping for that magical formula that will put them over the edge and get them even more mass appeal, such as with the track “Shadows”. The chorus is absolutely huge and hook-tastic. It is dying to be played on the radio and be heard, but at the same time Barnes has to kill the post-chorus sections with his underwhelming yells. Or take a look at “Mystery of You”, an obvious nod to Breaking Benjamin, but with an additional layer of melancholy. Some of the guitar licks are a little too similar to Breaking Benjamin for their own good, but again the band has created a killer chorus.

As a whole, Innocence & Instinct is an album that just barely breaks beyond the boundaries of its genre trappings, most notably due to the knack Red have for crafting choruses that are both memorable and relatively cheese-free. However, the undeniable lack of growth hampers the band and makes one wonder if they are capable of maturing beyond the plateau they appear to be stuck on. Still, the album is listenable, above average, inoffensive, and innocuous, so it is hard to trash it, but it is equally as difficult to heap praise upon it.

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