Red Dons are a band I’ve meant to check out for some time. As a reviewer, perhaps I’m supposed to go check out the whole back catalog, but I often find it equally useful to approach a band tabula rasa, as that gives a better view of where this specific record is at. Past accomplishments, be damned, it’s the A Vote For the Unknown b/w This City 7” that I’m reviewing here, not the band as a whole. All that said, this record, namely the A-side, features heavy involvement from TV Smith (Adverts), so it may not even sound like the rest of their output. I’ll determine that later, as this 7” is a good one and it’s got my interest in the band more piqued than ever.
While I expected something a little more deviant and adventurous in structure and style, A Vote For the Unknown is lodged somewhere in post-’77 punk, right in that era where the aggression was subdued and subtle while the music was confrontational and arty. That’s arty, not art-punk, which is a whole extra layer. Here, the songs follow familiar formats with enough weirdness to keep it interesting. In A-side “A Vote for the Unknown,” the lyrics and music convey the emotion and drama equally, and those two adjectives are the ones that carry this 2-song release. It’s tonal and a bit spacey, with a pop-forward notion that’s delivered via the drums. Meanwhile, there are some nice bass leads that pull the songs along without getting droney—which is a big thing for this 7”, as the vocals on both songs are rather monotone and atmospheric, more dreary than boisterous. It works well on the short-play release, though it’s hard to say if that tone can keep interest over something longer.
The fact that the record is a classic “b/w” title is fitting. The structures and styles are well-defined and time-tested. The content as the record spins, however, is new, sometimes challenging, and embracing. It’s music that’s hard to finger exactly why it hits, but it does so. Check it out.
7.7 / 10
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