What are the essential characteristics of punk rock and does the Shanghai duo Running Red Lights have them? Let’s see…
1/ Stripped down instrumentation…..well here we have...One heavily distorted Guitar, drums and Vocals, Check!
2/ Short song lengths….well 10 of the 12 songs fall between 50 seconds and about 3 minutes…Check!
3/ Anti-establishment/ controversial subject matter…well there’s the McDonalds ordering skit which impersonates two Shanghai based American morons proclaiming “Speak English or die” before being told “fuck you” by the automated voice on the phone…and then there’s screams and chainsaw sounds and song hooks like the repeating “I fucking hate your guts” and so on…Check, I guess but then again…meh!
4/ A strong DIY aesthetic in both sound and visual presentation…well you can see the record cover for yourself …and as for the sound... it does have that production quality that can’t be more than a handful of mics put in a rehearsal room and dumped directly onto a laptop….This kind of thing is much like those perfectly ripped jeans and scruffy hair people which generate envy, ambivalence and/or hatred in equal measure from passers-by…It’s either a result of meticulous faffing around to make it sound RAW and gritty in just the right way OR, it genuinely was recorded quickly and in the true spirit of Punk…the answer is for your ears to decide but as for me…it sounds like the latter and a big middle finger to producers like Steve Albini …so…Check!
Well that’s enough of lists for now…. There is indeed more in the Running Red Lights sound than just carbon copy hardcore punk. There are the hyper aggressive veins of thrash metal and grindcore spiking the mix here. This comes in the form of a good humoured nod to Slayer at the end of track 8/Moving Out (安东尼的歌) and the admittedly exhilarating blast beat drumming which can be found throughout the record…perhaps check out track4/ I’ll keep this song as short as I’ve known you… for an example.
Indeed it seems that the bands musicianship and metal chops are in themselves proof that the band aren’t completely anti-music and that “the devil is in the details” so to speak. Listen to the end of Track 5/ Failure, Such a Disappointment as proof of how a good blast-beat can send a punk track into the stratosphere.
The other crucial thing to be aware of when listening to Running Red Lights is that they are definitely not of the angry Po-faced variety. They are definitely and rather admirably pranksters, musical ne’er-do-wells who use the visceral powers of Punk and Metal as a way of pushing your buttons...getting listeners excited, restless, angry or even nauseous…not in order to highlight their philosophical plight or to grind their political axes (like so many punk bands claim), but rather just because its damn fun and funny to do so.
From the information on their Bandcamp site, to the bands photos, song titles and everything else… Running Red Lights are a band who almost exclusively only deal in the kind of musical pleasures which originate from the neck down. What effect that has on you as a listener is entirely down to your own disposition. If you’re into extreme music but require some intellectualism thrown in (eg. Bands like; Converge, Fugazi, Big Black) then these guys might fall a tad short of the mark. BUT if you’re the sort of person who gets their kicks out of hardcore punk and metal’s unadulterated energy that makes you just wanna bicycle kick, flail about and indulge in good old fashioned slovenly dumb fun then this record has what you need in spades…and there’s nothing wrong with that…in fact out of all the essential characteristics of punk Rock it is probably its anti-intellectual immediacy that is the most “Punk” like quality of all… so before this reviewer gets thinking too much about something that wasn’t thought about that much in the first place…I’m gonna stop bloody writing!!!
Go check out the record with the link below and be sure to catch the band performing around town soon.