De Nova

The Redwalls

Capitol Records, 2005

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Either these four young guys from Deerfield, Illinois have got elephant balls, or they just don't know any better. P.S. I'm pretty sure they know better.

There have been hundreds and hundreds of bands over the past 35 years that have listened to, learned from, looked up to and/or longed to be more like the Beatles. They were, after all, the single most influential group in the history of rock and roll, and the originators of/inspirations for any number of musical trends and genres that followed in their wake, from power-pop to psychedelia.


The Redwalls do not "sound like" or "pay homage to" or any other half-assed phrase one might use to try to relate their style to the Beatles. They freaking channel them like a million-megawatt radio/time machine. This album could be titled Revolver II (The Next Generation), and no one would blink.

The British invasion wall-of-guitars, the playful three-part harmonies, the knowing nods to r&b rhythms, the occasional headlong dive into soulful blues-shouter vocals… even the detours into throbbing psychedelic pop, horns-and-strings accents and earnest political statements. It's all here, executed with a casual brilliance that boggles the mind, because not only are these four lads from the suburban Midwest, they're barely out of high school. Brothers Logan Baren (vocals & guitar) and Justin Baren (bass & vocals) are 22 and 19, respectively; best pal Andrew Langer (guitar & vocals) is 20; and new guy Ben Greeno (drums) is 21. (And they say you can't get a musical education in America today!)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

My favorite moments on this disc go by like a blur every time I listen to it. But here are just a few: the instantly memorable choruses of "Thank You" and "Building A Bridge"; the ebullient dare-you-not-to-dance drive of "Love Her" and "It's Alright"; the dead-on acoustic protest song vibe of "Glory Of War"; and the truly glorious, wailing "Twist And Shout" vocals deployed by Baren on the blazing-fun closer "Rock And Roll."

The first time through you're dazzled by the audacity of the sound -- the repeated Lennonisms in Baren's vocals, the note-perfect retro arrangements, the giddy rock numbers seasoned with Hammond organ and orchestral flourishes. Then on subsequent spins you start listening to the songs themselves and find out these guys really know what they're doing. They aren't imitators. They are a band that has adopted the Beatles' sonic template whole, and applied their own considerable writing talents to the task of making new music within it.

Nowhere is this clearer than on the one song where I really did get the chills the first time I heard it. "Front Page" opens with processed vocals that sound like Lennon speaking from beyond the grave, whereupon Baren moves steadily through a somber lyric ("As they talk about / Sixteen kids gone in a schoolyard / The papers read / She shakes her head") that sounds eerily like "A Day In The Life 2005." For that reason, part of me wanted to hate it, but I couldn't -- it's too good.

As a general rule, I want artists to show me something fresh and new. Tribute bands just make me sad that the real thing isn't still around. And that 's the crux of the musical dilemma posed by De Nova -- is this album original? Not in the sense of creating something the likes of which has never been seen or heard before. But it certainly is original in the sense of accomplishing something I'm not sure I've ever seen done this well before -- taking a familiar and famous sound and breathing fresh new life and vibrancy into it. They won this jaded critic over to the point where all I have left to say is: Meet The Redwalls.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.