Really Red - Teaching You The Fear:The Complete Collection 1979-1985 (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Really Red

Teaching You The Fear:The Complete Collection 1979-1985 (2015)

Alternative Tentacles

Prior to this release, my knowledge of Really Red was pretty limited. I knew they were from Houston. I knew that "I Was A Teenage Fuck Up" was one of my favorite songs from the American Hardcore Soundtrack. I knew that Teaching You The Fear was considered a classic and that the record went for big money. I was thrilled when I heard that Alternative Tentacles was going to re-issue the Really Red catalogue. I would finally get to hear this long lost material, and AT has an excellent track record with these types of releases.

I don't know if it's Jello himself, or another AT employee, but someone over there has a good sense for which bands to rescue from the punk rock scrap heap. They have pulled many great bands back from the brink of total obscurity. They tend to keep the original recordings in tact, as much as possible, and the liner notes are also usually good at putting bands in their proper historical context. Articles Of Faith, The Crucifucks, Dicks and JFA are a few of my favorites that I probably wouldn't have heard without Alternative Tentacles making their material more widely available. I have a mental list of bands that I hope eventually get the AT treatment. (Necros next? Please Jello, I'm begging.)

Really Red Teaching You The Fear:The Complete Collection 1979-1985 is available as a two CD set or as three separate LP's (Teaching You The Fear, Rest In Pain, New Strings For Old Puppets). The Teaching You The Fear LP is the strongest and most essential stuff here. It will remind you of Gang Of Four in sound and spirit. It is nearly danceable post-punk, but the guitars are sharper and more aggressive. RR also shares GOF's leftist beliefs, and many of the songs are confrontational in nature. "Too Political?" questions traditional American values. "Teaching You The Fear" takes on racism, homophobia, and police brutality. "No Art In Houston" is a cover of Culturcide, the weirdest of all the Texas bands. It ends in a fury of saxophone noise that recalls Fun House era Stooges. "White Lies" takes on religion with "One thing I'll tell ya I think is odd/Black folks prayin' to a white god". "Nico" is an ode to the late Velvet Underground singer. "Starvation Dance" and "Prostitution" are proof that the protest song was still alive and well in the 1980's.

Sometimes Really Red will remind you of their better known Texas contemporaries. I suppose it makes sense that they were all subject to many of the same influences. I hear lots of the hard funk of The Big Boys. I hear the radical antagonism of Dicks and the violent hardcore of MDC. Rest In Pain is mostly very good, but not as cohesive as Teaching You The Fear. This LP appears to have been pieced together. The studio stuff is great, but the live parts are just OK. "Just The Facts Ma'am" is nearly 20 minutes of mostly artsy-fartsy noise. It's interesting once, but doesn't require repeated listens. "Youth Culture For Sale", "Balance Of Terror" and "Nobody Rules" are the highlights here.

New Strings For Old Puppets is the most "hardcore" of the material, and some of my favorite. "I Refuse To Sing" and "Teenage Fuck Up" have both aged very well. A couple of early singles are also included. "Modern Needs" is a swipe at consumerism that is as relevant today as ever. "Downtown", the 1964 Petula Clark hit, seems like an odd choice for a cover tune, but RR makes it work. A few more compilation and live tracks round out this set. There is a lot of good stuff to wade through in this monstrosity. It is 44 tracks spread across two hours. Most of us never got to see Really Red during their relatively short existence, and this document is our consolation prize.

The downside of these great Alternative Tentacles collections is that they are usually post-mortem. It's strange to be able to look at a band's entire body of work at once. It's like a musical autopsy. The liner notes include a lot of lyrics and old flyers, as well as a lengthy interview with singer U-Ron. He tells the story of RR turning down an opportunity to open for The Clash on the Texas dates of their Combat Rock tour. Apparently, The Clash had contract riders that Really Red considered to be poser, rock star crap, and told them to piss off. Was it youthful integrity or career suicide? It's hard to say, but you can't help but wonder what might have become of this band with a little more luck and a few different choices. This is essential for the record collection of any self-respecting 80's punk/hardcore fan.