The Red Romance - The Red Romance EP
Record Label: None
Release Date: May 10, 2008
New York City’s rock quartet Ambulance Ltd. may have ceased being a band a while back, but the group’s lead singer Matthew Dublin and drummer Darren Beckett have pressed on forming the new wave quintet The Red Romance. Influenced by ‘80s gruops like Roxy Music and The Smiths, The Red Romance have the glossy synths of new wave’s shoegaze with slots of rock guitar solidified by rhythmic swells produced by keyboardist Wes Carnes, guitarist Irina Yalkowsky, and bassist Adam Chilenski.
There is a dreamy pop touch in the band’s latest self-titled EP that recalls of the ‘80s Spandau Ballet, particularly in the track “Hesitate” where Dublin’s vocal register shows the breezy tones of Ballet’s lead singer Tony Hadley. So much in The Red Romance’s EP seems to come straight out of the archives of the ‘80s, and yet, it really does not hurt the album. There is a distinct sense that the album is modern sounding, living and inspired by what is happening today and identifying with the artistic expressions of the ‘80s. The Red Romance don’t need the ‘80s to come back, they need music with a dreamy quality to become fashionable again.
The combination of synth-pop and modern rock elements in tracks like “One Shot” and “Break Away” are comparable to The Dandy Warhols and the band that became an offshoot of the Warhols, last year’s Telephone. The melodic rock flare in The Red Romance’s tracks has a scintillating resonance that feels good without getting on your nerves for being too saccharine-textured. The mid-tempo momentum is enough to sustain your interest throughout the album, and the delicate chimes that are tooled into the sequences offer excellent intricacies that give The Red Romance’s tracks something more than the usual shoegaze variety. The band also sows in folksy-tinged acoustics through the nu wave/dance-soaked tracks like “Don’t Cry,” “You’re So Cold,” and “Kinda Feel Right.” These three numbers show a hybrid of influences including a touch of boogie rock in the rhythmic movements of “Kinda Feel Right.”
The Red Romance have a way of composing patches of chord series and then piecing them together into a cohesive song. It’s a method that prevents the songs from ever sounding stale, and Dublin’s take-charge-of-the-reins vocals add to the tracks instant appeal. He scoops up frayed pieces in the melodies and shapes them into a song with a will of its own like in “One Thought.” The smooth smoky synth rings and wavy guitar lassos coast aimlessly until Dublin’s vocals scoop them up and work them into a melodic rock swagger that stimulates the scalloped shape in the grooves. Tall standing escalations are formed through the chorus parts and then scales down along the verses. The lyrics for “One Thought” have an autobiographical feel when Dublin sulks, “You took a piece of my heart and gave it to someone else / Well, I guess I blame myself.” He expresses a more dreamy pop feel in “Just One Kiss” imagining, “You know you turn me on / You know you turn me on now, Baby / And you can do no wrong / And you can do no wrong now, Honey / I never knew it could feel like this / Yeah she did it with just one kiss.” His vocal timbres slip into a husky Charlie Sexton-like drone which induces a captivating pitch through the track.
The Red Romance’s self-titled EP has a lot to like about it, but you have to wonder if it is just transient. Will the band’s new wave/dreamy pop vessel sail for long? Others like them have made a big splash and then waned off. The Red Romance have to their credit being the opening act for The Killers, but similarly to The Killers, do they only have one good album in them? If this is it, then enjoy it while The Red Romance are offering it, because this kind of inspiration has a way of being fleeting.