By Eleni P. Austin
“I am not revolution, I am not standing still, I am not illusion/I won’t define, I won’t define, I won’t define.” That’s the opening salvo from the British band Red Racer. It’s also the title track from their debut, Define.
Vocalist/drummer John Hogg and guitarist Sean Genocky have been making music together for years. They first made their bones separately, playing grimy pubs in Tooting, a district in South London. Slugging it out in Battle Of The Bands competitions, the pair teamed up and formed Moke in the late ‘90s.
Moke enjoyed a modicum of success, recording two albums and touring with bands like the Black Crowes. After they broke up, Genocky found steady work behind the boards, mixing for artists like the Futureheads and Tom McCrae.
Meanwhile, John Hogg and Black Crowes’ guitarist, Rich Robinson began a new project called Hookah Brown. Despite recording an entire album together, the band ran aground after 18 months.
Flash forward to the summer of 2012 and Jesse Hughes, (leader and agent provocateur for Eagles Of Death Metal), crossed paths with Genocky at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth. Hughes likened the vibe at Rockfield to the infamous Rancho De La Luna studio in Joshua Tree. He proposed they make a record together, with Genocky stepping out in front of the mixing console, returning to performing.
Of course it took some time for everyone’s schedules to align. In the interim, Genocky and Hogg reconnected. The two trekked to Rancho De La Luna together. Woodshedding for about seven days, they had written an entire album’s worth of material before Hughes arrived. Rancho owner, Dave Catching provided additional production and desert luminaries like QOTSA drummer Joey Castillo, and Masters Of Reality mastermind Chris Goss were on hand to provide musical support.
Opening with a skronky note of feedback, Define, is awash in jackhammer rhythms, squally shards of guitar and Hogg’s snarly-sneering vocals. Clearly, Red Racer has pledged allegiance to British Punk stalwarts like Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks.
Two songs, “Put It Out” and “Good Times” feel inspired by their Joshua Tree surroundings. The frenetic beats of the title track give way to a sludgier, dust-encrusted sound. On the former, stabbing guitar riffs collide with an insistent rhythm, the listener is transported to an apocalyptic netherworld. “Hard wired to the underground, deep in your hole, sitting about with your jackboots.”
On the latter, the desert is practically a character in the song. Over howly vocals and a slithery guitar groove, the arid surroundings take center stage. “There’s a cool breeze and the sun sets quicker/There’s a full moon over a bone dry river.”
Three tracks paint women as sinners, saviors and succubi. A thudding big beat propels “Pretty Polly.” Guitars pivot between shimmery grace notes and fractious riffs. Polly is “a seducer, snake charmer,” but her allure proves irresistible. “Your potion give it to me/I can drink it right down slowly, let it run through me.”
On “Feed” the time signatures shift, from pounding tribal tom-toms, to pummeling percussion to a hiccup-y back beat. The mood is haunted and hypnotic, the guitars, spiky and angular. Genocky quickly succumbs to the sepulchral seduction. “Electrify, lick my soul/bleed me dry, feel your breath I open wide.”
“Vibe Bomb” begins slowly kicking into a martial cadence that stops and starts. Swirly guitars and ominous, circuitous synths cloak this tale of nocturnal temptation. The best tracks here are “Shotgun Suzie,” “Cover Me” and “Serpiente.” On the spidery “Shotgun Suzie,” a boomerang beat cushions razor-sharp guitar licks Suzie doesn’t suffer fools. “Even though she smiles sweetly, don’t want to trick her/’Cos if you cross her you’ll be looking down the barrel of a gun.”
“Cover Me,” is an insistent ode to carnal chemistry. A rattlesnake-shake rhythm connects with strafing, staccato riff-age. It recalls the frenzied three chord stomp of the Who’s seminal hit, “I Can’t Explain.”
Finally, “Serpiente” is anchored by twitchy handclaps and guitars that throb and pulse like Tesla coils. Despite the high voltage instrumentation, the song has a pensive undercurrent.
The album closes with the spacious “Such A Long Way.” Moody and melancholy, it hints at a long distance relationship gone wrong; a solitary finish to a solid debut.
Once Genocky and Hogg completed recording and returned to England, they recruited old pal, Jesse Wood to handle bass duties. Wood, son of Rolling Stones guitarist, Ron Wood, has modelled and worked in music production. He has also played with bands like Glyda, Reef and Carbon/Silicon (the most recent project from Clash guitarist, Mick Jones).
Define is a sharp distillation, blending boisterous Brit-Punk inflections with the uncluttered, atmospheric desolation of the Mojave. Really, it’s the best of both worlds.