Ever wondered what it’s like to be a young man in his twenties today? Forget Me Not the keenly awaited album by Red Hot Riot, pulls you into that world and shows you round. Labels and genres are a bit of a necessary evil, aren’t they? They’re useful for quick reference but can end up bringing their own unhelpful baggage. It’s fair to call Red Hot Riot a rockabilly band, but this only tells part of their musical story because they’re striving to write songs and make music that’s more universal than that label suggests.
If we say say modern dance music became established in 1988(ish), it’s now 33 years old. Yet no-one dismisses new dance music just because it belongs to a genre with a history and its own musical conventions and structures. Then the same applies to Red Hot Riot’s rockabilly roots, and as one of their songs is based around the quintessential 21st Century experience of drunk texting at 2am, they’ve obviously got insight into modern life. On Forget Me Not, the abiding twin themes of great rockabilly are present: “That person is super-hot and I want to sleep with them so bad!” and “Baby, baby, baby, I love you!” The first is delivered with a rhythmic twitch in the pelvis, and the second with a tear in the eye. And Red Hot Riot manage to make good on these universal themes with genuine passion and commitment.
This isn’t quite all they sing about, indeed as their song Down The Rabbit Hole says: “Life is full of change, but don’t let it change your brain”, but as with the life of many a young man, love and lust are Forget Me Not’s main touchstones. The songs address these subjects almost a bit too earnestly sometimes and the occasional light touch would have been welcome. The music is arranged to play to the strengths of the band’s guitar trio line-up with driving drums, fizzing guitar and bouncing bass. However, the first half of the album sounds a bit too clean and nice somehow. All the parts are in place, but the smell of sweat as people jive to the songs has been rather squeezed away by the studio experience. It all sounds a bit… tidy, and makes me hanker for a bit of grit in the mix. This leaves songs like Morning Light coming across as guitar pop, more than anything else. That said, things change gear with It’s What You Make Of This which sees the rhythm section cutting loose, guitar lines that bite and a great vocal performance with a daring falsetto chorus.
The album picks up energy as it goes and really starts to motor along in the second half. Life You Get features some superb guitar playing, with masses of swing and swagger. Stung By A Bee has a touch of the Dick Dales about it, and is delivered with a real strutting confidence. Too Late really jumps with a hard edge that compels spontaneous dancing and nods its head to The White Stripes. The album ends with the doo-wop flavoured Mona Lisa that’s pulled off with real heart and style. Muted passionate guitar solos build into a reverb drenched solo line while the rhythm section stops it all from simply floating away. The emotion expressed here is epic but Red Hot Riot pull it all off in about 3 minutes and it’s a great song to end the album on. This is an album that offers the listener lots: a good time weekend jump-jive listen.
By: Eastside Jimmy