That the Redwalls are young lovers of the classic rock sounds of the '60s and '70s is not disputed. Every note on their second album, De Nova, has been played before; every sound has come blasting from a Dylan, Beatles, Stones, Band, or Kinks record, from the soothing horn section and Mellotrons to the swooping Hammond organ to the hard-charging dual guitar attack to Logan Baren's Dylan-whine vocals. To try to deny it would be foolish, so the band does what so many others in its position might shy away from and embraces its love of the past with a big, sloppy rock & roll smooch. As with their first album, what saves the day is the group's absolute dedication and commitment to their sound and their songs. They play with the fire and fury of true believers, and it's hard not to get swept up along with them. The record's first song, "Robinson Crusoe," is a call to arms that you'd have to be two steps from dead to ignore. Shuddering like the Rolling Thunder Revue with the wheels about to fall off, the horns and sloppy guitars create a woozy wall of sound that Baren weaves through like vintage Jim Brown. All rock & roll records should kick off with songs this hot and bothered. The band can't keep the pace up and doesn't even try. The rest of the record is evenly paced with a mix of ballads (the aching "Hung Up on the Way I'm Feeling" and "How the Story Goes"), mid-tempo blue-eyed soul ("Thank You," "Build a Bridge"), jittery new wave-influenced songs ("Love Her"), and pounding rockers ("On My Way," "It's Alright"). The band and producer Rob Schnapf conjure up a sound that is both simple and direct and is layered with all kinds of instruments and textures. You could argue that the band doesn't take enough chances and sounds too traditional, but with songs as strong as these, it doesn't matter that they play it safe. Besides, it's kind of refreshing to find a band that doesn't feel the need to do anything at all that might be considered contemporary (apart from the FCC-deriding lyrics in the Television-influenced "Falling Down"). The only song that falls flat is the most modern sounding (the acoustic protest song "Glory of War"), as the subject matter is too weighty and earnest and, while the sentiments are admirable, it just doesn't fit the mood of the album. The band even seems to acknowledge it by following the song with the mindless and goofy romp "Rock & Roll." Chalk it up to the conflicting passions of involved and emotional youth. It is exactly that kind of post-teenage fire that makes De Nova the exciting and breathlessly alive record that it is. The Redwalls may not be able to keep it up as they grow older and (inevitably) more mature, but if you like your rock & roll classic and loaded to the top with passion, guts, and tunes, enjoy it while it lasts. -AMG
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