Red Monroe’s sound has evolved quickly over the last few years.
From the lush, layered, early-U2 stylings of the band’s first release to the athletic Arcade Fire-tinged punches of last year’s eponymous album, Red Monroe seems to have finally found its voice. On ¡Policia! ¡Policia!, the Dallas band’s third album, the influences are still there, but now they’re relegated to the trophy room — where they belong. Eric Steele’s vocals are aggressive and unapologetic, kind of like those of The Pleasure Club’s James Hall, and he focuses his lyrics on the ugly beauty of the city’s nether regions. The lyrics, in fact, are littered with references, famous and infamous, to North Texas locales. A singular voice, though, does not imply monotony. To paint their curbside silhouettes, the Red Monroe lads are expert at varying arrangements, atmospheres, and tempos.
A proper introduction to the band’s sound may be “City Boy Motel,” with its upbeat teases and sleazy narrative riddled with anvil-like thuds from Matt Moffitt’s keyb’s, in synch with Jeff Gilroy’s scrappy percussion and Neal Wadley’s gymnastic bass lines. Andrew Snow’s guitar is omnipresent, pulling double duty as both carefully choreographed chaos-provider and auxiliary percussionist. The storyline of the album is presented with amphetamine-laced urgency, but there is room for the occasional reflective moment, like when the tone and tempo of a sonic theme devolve into a stylistic aside. As solid an album as ¡Policia! ¡Policia! is, the title track is really the one worth writing home about. Clocking in at just under six minutes, the tune is epic by commercial-radio standards — but you won’t hear it on commercial radio because it’s too damn good. Red Monroe’s love of T-Rex growls loudly here, but certain embellishments keep it in check. Basically, the guys throw the entire kitchen sink at the monster. Handclaps, gypsy violin, background vocals in unison with guitar lines, fire engines, train wrecks, lions, tigers, bears — you name it, it’s in this song, and none of it sounds the least bit gratuitous or out of place. Amazing. While the Sex Pistols claimed there was no future, The Clash said there was a future worth fighting for. At least Mick Jones et al. have Red Monroe to hold up as Exhibit A.-Tom Urquhart