From the opening riff of “#1 Party School in America” onward, Red Cities delivers a nine-song blast of uncompromising, politically charged punk rock on “Soft Target.”
The second album from the Lincoln socialist garage punk outfit, “Soft Target” finds the quartet even more tightly fused and furious than previously, powered by Matt Bokovoy’s driving guitar riffs as it blasts through the 2-to-3-minute songs.
The songs decrying the rise of right-wing extremism and white nationalism, violence and terrorism sound like they were newly minted in response to the Trump administration. But the origins of Byron Anway’s lyrics date back to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine in 2014.
Anway sometimes sings, sometimes shouts and sometimes screams the words — whatever is needed to make the song connect most passionately — and the band never flags in delivering the Stooges/Sonic Rendevous Band/MC5/Off!-style rock ‘n’ roll.
The politics come bang, bang, bang on side one of the album — this one’s “a vinyl” as the kids say.
Following the anthemic critique of brainless, shirtless college partiers comes “Right, Bright Side,” which frets over the future of democracy; “It’s Political,” that brings up the taboo topic of the class war being conducted on the poor; and ”Soft Target,” a number about terrorism, with its key line: “I can’t fix it/Never gonna feel safe again.”
It continues on side two with the fist-pumper “Hold Fast”; the cry of “all I want to do is try to make a difference” of “White Noise,” which rides on Eric Aspengren’s throbbing, liquid bass and the cracking snare of drummer Josh Leeker; the border crossing of “little green men” in "Fred Ain’t Dead”; and the fistfight blow-by-blow over stuttering, then ringing guitars of “Fight, Fight, Fight.”
Not everything on “Soft Target,” however, is political. The catchy “Summer Days in San Francisco” is inspired by reports of Japanese teenage girls who write books on their phone and name drops “Trout Fishing in America.”
Lastly, “Soft Target,” which was recorded and engineered by Charlie Johnson at Fuse Recording, was made loud to be played loud — the higher the volume, the better it sounds. So crank it up and give the neighbors a lesson in political punk. Grade: A
Red Cities will release “Soft Target” at the Zoo Bar Saturday. Laughing Falcon will open the 9 p.m. show.