Redbait - Cages (Cover Artwork)


Cages (2019)

New Age Records

Redbait’s 2nd EP Cages has been turning up the heat all summer. A St. Louis sextet of day-job political organizers delivers 5 slices of furious midwestern crust under 14 minutes. Cages pummels through a hit list, roasting evil at the heart of vast wealth inequalities, systemic racism and white supremacy, and the absolute ‘crime against humanity’ at our southern border of ‘children in cages, locked up by hate’.

There’s an immediate sense of urgency and danger on this tape, mirroring the subject matter and the unsafe and unsanitary conditions within the overcrowded CBP detention centers reflected titularly and accurately as Cages. The crushing and cold guitar tone brings to life the texture of these songs, as crushing and cold as the concrete floors border detainees are forced to sleep on behind chain-link fencing without adequate housing facilities in the understaffed, underfunded, and unnecessarily dangerous detention centers. Just as I began to appreciate and articulate my enjoyment of the steady and confident drumming I was distracted by news of the twelfth human being to die in US immigration custody, half of that death toll being children. I got awfully off track for a half hour reading up on the perfectly legal process of coming into the country to claim asylum, an international right encoded in many standards of global human decency, which kept me from really reading the subtleties of the exquisite vocal variances within the second track, ‘Our Town’, but afforded me a better understanding of the deplorable conditions we’re inhumanely imposing on so-called ‘illegals’. I will say the vocals are quite harsh throughout the record, sounding as though our vocalist may have been among the female detainees instructed by border patrol agents to drink from the toilets in their cells, as relayed recently to visiting members of Congress. What sonic terror is created by the guitar work here is terrific and colorful but nowhere near as horrifying as the recent revelation of nearly 1,000 children and parents separated for detention in the days since the practice was struck down in federal court. The song ‘Bred for the Knife’ promotes great testimony on behalf of animal life, but not nearly as surprising or sinister of a testimony as that brought when The White House argued in court against requirements to give detained children soap or toothbrushes.

I don’t know about you, but when I review a political punk record I’m often looking for coldhearted, fearsome, brutalist delivery, but I gotta say this one probably pales in comparison to that of the CBP Agent who reportedly forced a three year old to choose which parent she would remain with and which would be torn away from them to be deported back to Mexico. The bass guitar isn’t always pronounced, but its steady driving nature does serve as an excellent reminder that all of this is the product of a Trump administration reversal of an Obama-era policy that allowed us to skip the grotesque scale of these family separations and detainments, and serves not to secure a single safety or liberty for the American People but to deter legal immigration to satisfy xenophobic and racist swaths of the presidents base of support, ‘in a country so free it incarcerates children’. Of course this is a great hardcore/crust EP, and there are already many celebratory and exhaustive reviews written of Cages, but if you’re coming away from the record with thoughts on songwriting or musical proficiency, you’ve missed the point.