Following the same incendiary rule book as Strike Anywhere -- lyrical fusillades of socio-political fury, pounding uptempo drumming and spirited sing-alongs of solidarity -- Red Tape Parade’s debut, Ballads of the Flexible Bullet is a solid yet lengthy effort.
With Ballads, Red Tape Parade leaves lots of room for growing; the variety of influences -- though sub-generic -- don’t guarantee any set sound, opening many doors to possible directions in the future. That’s not to say it’s unfocused or inconsistent. Whether it’s the ardent, almost screamo-esque choruses of “Neutron” or the Lagwagon-worthy proficiency of “Great Escape,” the band surprisingly doesn't sound too all over the place.
"Deadleaves" has the vocalist, Wauz, shredding his vocal cords before the catchy outro of interweaving octaves and arpeggios. Here, Wauz sounds a little like an exaggerated Fat Mike with a wider range. The choruses of "Great Escape" even sound like something of the Fat Wreck variety with its melodic singing and speedy drums. With more typical hardcore tracks like "Theme Song" and "Less Than a Minute," Wauz forgets Fatty for high-register screams in the same vein as Dennis Lyxzén. Behind it all, the instrumentation comprises of some really catchy rythmns, shifty, old-school hardcore power chords and lots of harmonized layers. There are even some dynamic post-punk-like bridges as displayed in "One Cup of Coffee."
The only real downfall is how blunt the lyrics get. The band's ode to being old, "Old Guys" spits out spitefully disappointing lines like: "growing old is just as bad [as growing up] / sometimes it's even worse / that's why I wrote this song." Also, the aforementioned lengthiness of the album becomes apparent 11 tracks in; the band accomplished everything I could want up until the end of the anthemic “Fingerprints,” which has the potential to be one of the best closers I’ve heard in a while. The songs that follow (with the exception of the crucial "Dead Letter") just seem redundant.
With all that was mentioned, laced together with atmospheric samples from "Shawshank Redemption," "Unbreakable" and "Lost" (to name very few), Ballads of the Flexible Bullet sounds fairly mature for a debut. There isn't much they need to tweak, so things are moving in Red Tape Parade's favor for whatever comes next.