Red Radio Flyer
First Appeared at The Music Box, December 2000, Volume 7, #12
Written by Michael Karpinski
Tipper Gore and others of her ilk have got it all wrong. The primary problem with rock music today is not the preponderance of violence, intolerance, and misogyny in the lyrics, it's that there are just too damn many bands looking to crash an already packed-to-capacity party. After all, there are only so many notes, so many riffs and fills, so many melodies and chord progressions. Everything's been said; all the plots are taken. Yet — 45 years after Chuck Berry laid down Maybellene and Bill Haley and the Comets rocketed to #1 with Rock Around the Clock — rock 'n' rollers from coast to coast and continent to continent continue to wriggle their way out of the woodwork in pursuit of those two most elusive of musical (and human) holy grails: fortune and fame.
Take, for example, Red Radio Flyer — four roots-rocking New Yorkers looking to make a name for themselves by simultaneously retracing the footsteps of their progenitors and climbing on the backs of their somewhat less seminal contemporaries. It should come as little surprise, then, that on their freshman effort, Gettin' Somewhere, you'll not only hear the peaceful, easy feelings of the Eagles (San Antonio [Gettin' Somewhere]), but also be treated to a generous helping of reheated Rembrandts (Leave Right Now) and Bryan Adams trying to be Springsteen (These Are Times). I Got a Way is John Mellencamp at his most flaccidly programmatic, and while it may be unfair to fault lead singer Janardana Ryan for sounding so much like the once-buzzworthy Ed Kowalczyk, there is no denying the Live-styled balladry of Don't Ask Me to Explain and The Last Time (the latter once again importing its choruses from Messrs. Frey and Henley). That said, The Last Time is something of a standout here — as is the snare-steady ballad Fading Away.
As today's stable of interchangeable, scavenger-magpie bands (Matchbox Twenty, Third Eye Blind, Collective Soul, etc., etc.) proves most conclusively, one need not be a cutting-edge innovator to achieve at least some level of success in the modern-day music scene. This should come as something of a comfort to diapered neophytes like Red Radio Flyer because with Gettin' Somewhere, these young fellas ain't gettin' anywhere just yet. They're just circling the wagons and recycling the past. The fact that they do so in an agreeably low-key — and reasonably attractive — fashion is certainly a credit to them. But, in the end, the cruel truth is that this is just one more bunch of hungry young cannibals looking to chomp their way to the top.
"Pop will eat itself," indeed. ½
Gettin' Somewhere is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box