For hundreds of years, troubadours have given musical voice to the ills of contemporary life. That tradition came to a monumental apex during the 1960s, a decade that offered songwriters a surplus of inspirational subjects to document, from racial inequality to the generation gap to women's liberation to sexual freedom to environmental concerns to casual (and eventually professional) drug use to political dissidence to the war in Vietnam.
As the old adage goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here, in our shiny new millennium, BIPOC people are still seeking equality, with Black Americans particularly outraged at continually finding themselves figuratively and literally targeted by law enforcement; women are still demanding commensurate pay that matches their male counterparts in the workplace; and the nation's political divide may be wider than it has ever been in its 244-year history. Great strides have been made in the areas of LGBTQ+ rights, including the Marriage Equality Act, and the relaxing of marijuana laws, but those gains could be reversed by the new conservative Supreme Court in the coming years.
Through all of this, songwriters stand at the ready with pen and paper and guitar and piano to provide the anthems that will form the soundtrack of society's struggle to achieve its noblest goals. To our credit and with bottomless gratitude, Cincinnati tunesmiths have an uncanny ability to channel their disgust with the ills of the day into irresistible Pop/Rock songs. Evening Redness frontman and primary songwriter Brent Billock has thrown his hat into that ring with his band's sophomore release, Burn It Down.
The all-too-brief but powerful 5-track EP finds Billock's trio shining a light on a number of relevant subjects, kicking off with “Hooray for Ignorance,” an ode to the conspiracy theorists and fake-news finger pointers that have dominated social media and the airwaves, as well as the dictatorial idiot king who throws gasoline on their smallest fires.
“The billionaires are laughing as they say, 'Hooray for ignorance,' three cheers for the new plutocracy/Down with science, down with history, down with eggheads who don't think like me,” Billock sings with angry passion over a punchy and melodic Garage Rock swagger.
After that well-defined introduction, Evening Redness shifts into Punk/New Wave mode with “Punch Some Nazis,” blending Gang of Four martial rhythms and David Bowie's Berlin-era stuttering time signatures with the lyrical observation that sometimes violence is the only logical response to violence.
Billock and Evening Redness continue in similar musical veins on the gun control screed of “Blood Money” and the title track's Black Lives Matter/Native American genocide manifesto set to a Jazz/Punk swing. The EP concludes with the return to Garage Rock basics on “Love is Love,” which rightly points out that deep human affection is not bound by traditional gender roles.
There is much to like about Burn It Down. Billock's lyrics are plainly stated and not couched in ambiguity that requires decoding, and the band has a raw, home-recorded, basement-lockdown sound that is loose yet visceral. The EP's cover art telegraphs the emotions the listener is about to experience; — a figure cloaked in black and disguised by a beaked plague mask dominates the foreground, while a multi-storied structure engulfed in flames forms the backdrop. Even the band's name takes on new meaning in light of the climate-related wildfires raging through California and Colorado.
For those familiar with Evening Redness' 2016 debut, Before the Dark, this is a new iteration of the band, which largely dissolved after the album's release. Billock, who played guitar on the first album, has switched to bass on Burn It Down; he's joined by Whiskey Shambles drummer Brian Rappach, who he met through the Shambles' James Czar when Czar was Evening Redness' gig bassist; and guitarist John White, a fellow motorcycling enthusiast who Billock met at a European bike event.
Burn It Down will be released on Thursday with a livestream show at 8 p.m. on CincyMusic's Facebook page. The EP will be available digitally through CDBaby and Evening Redness' Bandcamp page, with eventual availability on Spotify and iTunes. Burn It Down will also be available as a physical CD.
For more on Evening Redness, visit eveningrednessmusic.com.