- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

The Redwalls

De Nova

Capitol Records

Are they mods or rockers? Or are they, as Ringo Starr famously joked in the movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” mockers?

With the Redwalls, an exuberant junior-classic-rock band from the Chicago area, the line between earnest tribute and cheeky irony is razor-thin. They dress like slightly scruffier versions of the Ed Sullivan-era Beatles. They wear their hair like the Beatles. They sound like the Beatles.

Man, do they sound like the Beatles.

So closely have the Redwalls copped the essential ingredients of the Fab Four, you often can pinpoint exactly which Beatles song the band is mimicking on its major-label debut, “De Nova.”

Album opener “Robinson Crusoe” starts off as a loose, horn-laden rocker, then does this little back-and-forth chromatic riff that screams “Mean Mr. Mustard.” On “Hung Up on the Way I’m Feeling,” you’ll be waiting for singer-guitarist Logan Baren to start singing in Italian, it sounds so much like “Sun King.”

“Front Page” has the disaster-themed “I read the news today” psychedelia of “A Day in the Life.” The goofball boogie of “Rock & Roll” is the Redwalls’ self-conscious attempt to sound like 1963, as opposed to 1969.

Is any of this mimicry fatal? Hardly. These are great songs on the copy machine, and, in fairness, the Redwalls do mine other territory, including T. Rex glam and early New York punk along the lines of Television. Also, the band itself — Mr. Baren and his bassist brother, Justin, plus lead guitarist Andrew Langer and drummer Justin Kozen — plays with such a come-party-with-us spirit of boozy, brawling fun, you’ll swear it’s a pack of British yobbos, not American suburbanites in their 20s.

Interestingly, the Redwalls try to be the thinking man’s yobbos. “Build a Bridge” and its corny but catchy “bring both sides together” chorus is old hippie gibberish. But the song “Falling Down” is a contemporaneous shot across the bow of the Federal Communications Commission, replete with four-letter words that seemingly no FCC protest song can do without these days. The Dylan-esque “Glory of War” laments the human assembly line of war-making, but without explicit reference to the country’s ongoing battles.

While such seriousness can mar a fun rock record, in the Redwalls’ case, it tethers them to the current century; it helps “De Nova” rise above mere jukebox impersonation.

The Redwalls will soon tour, fittingly, with those other brotherly Beatles wannabes, Oasis.

You know you should be glad.

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