ALBUM REVIEW: RedHook – ‘Postcard From A Living Hell’

Artwork for RedHook’s ‘Postcard From A Living Hell’ - the title displayed in postcard font. There is a hotel pool in the background with a skeleton floating in a rubber ring

At the risk of spoiling any potential surprise, to see RedHook make a leap this significant and this quickly after their debut EP is kind of startling. Bad Decisions was a fairly embryonic release as far as pop-rock goes, more about RedHook getting their feet wet among a selection of influences than building them up. Under normal circumstances, that’d usually be it, either for a fairly decent while to allow for more gestation time (in which they might become a different band entirely), or indefinitely. But no, this is a full-fledged debut album arriving not even two years later, and springboarding off the majority of past criticisms in a major way.

For a band like RedHook—fairly new, independent, but racking up truckloads of streams and an impressively beefy international touring roster—it kind of had to be. Credentials like that make for every tastemakers’ new dream band, but at the end of the day (and with music consumption being how it is, which is a completely different conversation in itself), it counts for nothing without the music to back it up. So here’s Postcard From A Living Hell, a display of walking the walk that’s up there with the literal act of putting one foot in front of the other.

It’s an extensive evolution project that RedHook have undergone here, basically at every level. Even in the presentation—the area that was arguably the most fully-formed already—the broadness in scope comes across more naturally, and opens itself up to do much more. Pop-rock works as a catch-all, but blended in are healthy traces of punk, post-hardcore and even alt-metal and metalcore, without losing the vivacity of the base. It’s a shockingly clean fusion at times, like on Off With Your Head or Psych Vs. Psych that play around with big choruses and punchy, buzzsaw guitars, while also showing how capable of out-and-out evisceration vocalist Emmy Mack is.

The closest immediate comparison is probably Hot Milk, in the dense production unafraid to bear its own serrated edges and a vocalist regularly flexing a firebrand streak that this kind of deliberately slicing pop-rock just loves. But RedHook do still have a lot of their own ideas to bring, to where they create enough distance to stand as their own unsupported entity. It comes in the no-holds-barred approach to sound that leaves them as an even more forward-facing presence; you can see where the additional layers have been stacked on The Critic or The Intervention, in the beeping synths and dance-punk percussion patterns of the former, and the shuddering, industrial sizzle of the latter. It’s all incredibly bold and booming, and unafraid to do whatever it takes to feel even more so. None of the guest features from members of Yours Truly, Sly Withers and The Faim really contribute much uniqueness, but throwing them onto the pile anyway just seems to be how RedHook operate.

That’s not to be confused as a criticism either. The approach of ‘everything at all times’ seems to be working well, and RedHook are yet to find themselves bogged down by the sheer amount of sonic mass they bring to work with. They’re still very much fine with the pop-rock fundamentals on Jabberwocky or Imposter in slugging hooks, and augmenting them a harder carapace and underlying snarl on Psych Vs. Psych and Low Budget Horror doesn’t lose anything either. This isn’t like Waterparks where disparity is so pronounced that it can be actively distracting; RedHook have a unifying theme and a command of branching it out, and more often than not, they land on their feet.

It also helps that Postcard From A Living Hell is more cutting by design, as a title as loaded as that would suggest. Writing was the main area to improve on last time, and it’s good to say that that’s clearly happened here, at least widely. Not everything gets as bone-deep as Jabberwocky’s recollection of eroded confidence after sexual assault, or SAY’s ever-salient accounts of being a woman undervalued and ignored in the music industry, but on the whole, RedHook offer something with a lot more meat from all corners. Mack can make the mere act of lashing out at negative, toxic people with a platform on The Critic sound weighty and thorned, and even the general word choices aren’t revelatory, the execution is where it counts.

In fact, RedHook as a whole can be summarised like that. They’re deep within the pop-rock zeitgeist, but the way they’ve moulded it to fit their particular skillset yields results that feel way less fake and tryhard. Give these exact songs to someone like Yungblud and they’d sound so corporate and so forced. RedHook don’t have that though, partly because their independent status skirts that, but also because they know how to make this work. What’s more, the fact that this improvement has come about so swiftly only adds to the appeal. The talent and acumen here is laid out plain to see, and running further with it could lead to something really sharp and forward-thinking at the end of it. They aren’t even that far from it now, to be fair, a vote of confidence that, two years ago, felt miles outside of RedHook’s reach. Right now, the sky’s the limit.

For fans of: Stand Atlantic, Bring Me The Horizon, Hot Milk

‘Postcard From A Living Hell’ by RedHook is released on 21st April.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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