At the beginning of March, Oklahoma punks Red City Radio dropped a new EP on Red Scare entitled SkyTigers. The band seems to have been building up to this release slowly, putting out two singles from the EP in 2017 before packaging them together with three more songs as SkyTigers. For me, this gradual output has only added to the sense of anticipation and excitement for some new material. When Red City Radio put out their self-titled album in 2015 after Paul Pendley left, the band (and particularly vocalist Garrett Dale) showed that they could push on and continue to create really danceable and uplifting punk. SkyTigers has emerged as the band has grown and toured over the last couple of years, and I was so stoked to check it out.
The EP’s first track, ‘If You Want Blood (Be My Guest)’, is also the song that the band first released back in April last year. Its strong melody and bluesy charm delivers the classic RCR message of finding dignity in self-sufficiency. I can’t help but draw comparisons between the line “We don’t need a god damned thing from you” and the repeating affirmation “I don’t need anything from anybody” from their previous song ‘Two Notes Shy of an Octave’. The track also includes some great vocal harmonies, as does the rest of the EP. In fact, RCR are getting really good at filling out their songs with more of the band’s vocals and the harmonies are probably better on this EP than on any of their other albums. The second track, ‘I’ll Still Be Around’, starts out simply, with just Garrett and an acoustic guitar – like he’s sitting at the back of a dive bar (or “the darkest bar in the corner of a shithole town”) pouring his heart out. The song soon picks up, throwing in some lovely basslines and a gnarly guitar solo.
Both of these first two tracks are excellent, but I think ‘In the Shadows’ is one of the best songs RCR has ever produced. It’s almost a full five minutes long, but I promise that it’s totally worth the extra listening time. The song is about overcoming self-doubt and the fear of failure; about facing the demons that hide out in the shadows of depression or anxiety. The song is dark and sexy, with an undeniably catchy melody and another amazing guitar solo. The guys have even added in some horns on this track to make it even more exceptional. RCR are truly at their best when they are writing uplifting songs about self-empowerment and self-belief (“Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You” is probably one of my favourite songs ever). ‘In The Shadows’ is the perfect song to throw on when you’re feeling down. A few chants of “I show no fear when I know that the devil’s here”, and you’ll be ready to do anything.
The EP’s last two songs are similarly excellent. In ‘Rebels’, RCR have created another great singalong, and I really love the production on the vocals. But, fair warning, the chorus of “They’re only rebels cause they like the songs” will absolutely get stuck in your head – possibly for several days. ‘SkyTigers’ is a real showstopper, moving from a ridiculously catchy melody to some prolonged wo-ah woahs, and offering some reflection upon the power to be found in human emotion and in each person’s ability to come together with others to do good. It has a similar effect to Propagandhi’s closing track on Victory Lap, ‘Adventures in Zoochosis’.
SkyTigers combines all the best things about RCR in five truly fantastic songs. Although it’s been a long time since we’ve had new music from them, what they have given us is exceptional. With its extreme danceability and encouraging message, this is set to be one of my favourite releases from this year.
Stream and download SkyTigers here: https://redcityradio.bandcamp.com/
Like Red City Radio here: https://www.facebook.com/redcityradio/
This review was written by Robyn Pierce.