Red City Radio / Streets of Thieves - Midwestern Hymnals (Cover Artwork)

Red City Radio / Streets of Thieves

Midwestern Hymnals (2007)

The Independent Record Company

In Oklahoma City we have a few great independent record stores. Guestroom Records happens to be my main choice, and on one normally boring Saturday, I stopped by to see what was new on the shelves. A little stroll by the local artists section and I happened upon a split album by Orgcore punkers Red City Radio, and fellow local act Streets of Thieves (R.I.P.). The collector in me thought I had everything by RCR so far, but with a title that had no memory for me, Midwestern Hymnals, and the anticipation for their debut full-length right around the corner, you know I had to grab this gem!!!

Each band offers up three tracks and RCR leads the way. Opening song "Unburdened" starts with a simple repetitive riff, sequestered off with the vocals of Paul Pendley and Garret Dale and the tight rythmn section thumping along to an immediate end. You can tell these are older songs by RCR–not so much grizzled and brash as their recent work entails, but they do showcase a band with great promise. Second song "Bike Thief" is interesting in its flow, with a slower progress and then allowing the atmosphere to be built upon and leading itself to a mighty ending with the chorus "This isn't all you've got." And finally, their third song, "Raising the Bar to a New Personal Low" comes as my favorite out of the bunch. With catchy lyrics and a strong sense of urgency, this song translates well into what RCR are doing, which is making songs about normal people and getting out personal feelings. Overall, a great start for a band on top of their game and possibly about to explode. Nostalgic for the fans' sake...

Now being a big RCR fan, I assumed I'd be predisposed to writing off the other half of this album, and honestly I was going to, but upon forcing myself to jam the second half more than once, I'm happy to say it's just as good, if not better by a stretch.

Now, I've never heard or seen Street of Thieves, but they'd been around the local scene for a few years and now was the time to listen. Their first track, titled "Shut Up World" has a great lyrical flow which is highlighted by lead singer Dirk Mathews. I'm reminded a little bit of Kevin Griffin from Better Than Ezra and Davey von Bohlen from the Promise Ring. Yeah, that's an awfully weird way to describe the vocal style, but hey, I've listened to way too much music. Anyway, track five, "Stabilize" comes along and builds upon the pace set by its predecessor. The guitar gives off a small quiver of that twinkly Midwest style before it slams back with Jawbreaker-esque-style punk. And then there is the final track, "Cloak & Dagger". This is their best one and it seems they saved everything until the last minute. The guitars crunch down and the drums pound heavy, with the musical tone taking a nosedive into a much more serious manner. Cue the Orgcore gruffness and you have something that would please any fan of Hot Water Music, Leatherface and the Lawrence Arms.

With a split album you can't always tell that much from such a short time with the bands, but occasionally there are those that do exactly that. This little split is all over the place, but what it lacks in focus it makes up for in sheer honesty and talent. Both these bands are great, and it seems one of them is on their way up higher. Sometimes it's nice to take a quick look back and in this case, the quicker, the better. It can always get better...