Durham, NC rockers Red Collar are the latest and greatest in a long line of hard-working, hard-rocking bands channeling the energy of classic rock with a DIY punk attitude. Comparisons range from Bruce Springsteen to Fugazi to The Hold Steady, but these boys have carved out their own niche in the genre with a gritty, fiery style that has caught the ear of many a music blog over the last few months. Their debut full-length album, Pilgrim, was produced by Brian Paulson (Wilco, Superchunk) and was released in March after a healthy dose of touring and several EPs. The record is an excellent showcase of the band's rough and rocky yet compelling musical style, borrowing from the best of their earlier material but providing plenty of even better, newer songs as well.
At the most aggressive end of the group's stylistic spectrum are tunes like "Rust Belt Heart" and "Hands Up," both filled with noisy guitar lines and driving percussion under singer Jason Kutchma's barked vocals. The band treads the line between infectious energy and reckless abandoned with precision, never completely losing themselves in their angst but still maintaining a welcome frantic pace throughout the album. Many of the songs follow a similar pattern, but the boys shake it up with tracks like the slowly builder opener "The Commuter" and gentler, more melodic cuts like "Tonight" and "Catch A Ride." Everything on the album works well and Red Collar prove themselves adept at each twist and turn, but when the band hit the perfect combination of grit and pop sensibility on songs like the album's title track, the results are especially fantastic.
I've yet to see these guys live, but it's easy to hear why they're known for putting on an amazing performance. Pilgrim is a no-frills rock 'n' roll record by a no-frills rock 'n' roll band, honest, emotional, and meant to be played loud and often. Check out the band on MySpace and download The Astronaut from the record below.
The Astronaut (MP3)
*Photo by Brian Shaffer