steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

review
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info opinion

Red Orkestra

"Life with the Machines" CD

Fading Ways Records

Genre: singer / songwriter, pop / rock, folk rock

May 2007

From the bland town of Waterloo, Ontario comes Johnny Charmer's Red Orkestra, a singer/songwriter project recalling the likes of The Smiths, Steve Wynn, and others. From the title to the lyrics to the copyright license involved in its release, Life with the Machines is a fairly political affair, which is interestingly coupled with Steve Payne's studio gloss and a conservatively melodic sound. While at times I find this record trailing on blasť melodrama ("Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," "A Far Cry from the Truth"), many of the songs are quite strong. "Ten Thousand Miles" is an immediately infectious pop nugget, and uplifting "One By One" features a positive melody and Charmer's pleasant falsetto. One complaint I have is that all of the songs have a sort of coffee shop folk-pop feel to them, which could bode well for the next Starbucks sampler but speaks for Charmer's clean-cut approach, which could benefit from being a bit rougher around the edges. Still, as far as well-produced, well-written pop songs go, you could do a lot worse than Life with the Machines.

mp3s (from redorkestra.com): radio towers, one by one

77%

youuuuuuuutube!: red orkestra's live acoustic version of "fools rush in"

Fun Fact: Red Orkestra's debut, After the Wars, was the first physical CD to be released under the Creative Commons license.

Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 11 tracks, 40:54, distributed by the label, released Jul 21 2006]