There can’t have been many albums as hyped as this one on the Irish music scene in a very, very long time. The Redneck Manifesto‘s preview tracks succeeded in crashing both Nialler9, Thumped.com and even the Irish Times music section in the build up to Friendship‘s release, and – having had to wait six years since the last full length I Am Brazil came out – certain corners of the Dublin music scene have been treating the latest offering as the second coming of the messiah. Not bad for an album that – given Richie’s success in the mean time- we weren’t entirely sure would ever come.
As anyone whose heard The Redneck’s previous material might expect, Friendship is an intense, bordering-on-cluttered experimental rock record that pelts from track to lyric-less track at breakneck speed. At least it is in the beginning, before calming into a subtler, more keyboard-heavy style for tracks like -Hex’ and delicate closer -Cloud Beard’. It’s also a record that’s incorporated just a little more of Jape’s solo style along the way, with the funky electro undertones shining through in places and adding a fresh new element to what’s come before. This has a heavily layered feel, with pounding riffs taking their turn alongside brief periods of dominance for each instrument, including an array of almost tribal drum solos that add some imaginative texture. Riff-tastic opener -Black Apple’ sounds better with every listen, while tracks like the amusingly titled (or are we just being dirty minded?) -Rubber Up’ take on a catchy staccato rhythm, with the occasionally split second of arm waving dance floor filler bursting through in the quieter moments.
The Redneck Manifesto’s scene has exploded in a major way since back in 2004, though, and there’s no denying Friendship sounds far less unique for the competition. The biggest difference between this band and their contemporaries, perhaps, is in Manifesto’s ability to highlight each musician individually. Many of their subtler tones seem to flit in and out of your consciousness, drawing attention to a range of instrumentation over the course of songs like -Little Nose’ without sacrificing a coherent theme or momentum.
It’s an instantly accessible album, and one that all in all comes across like it would only improve played live. Having said that, despite the hype, this is not going to change the world, or at least not until you get down to a show. Don’t get us wrong, the musicianship is perfect, and the near trance like vibe it can induce lives on, but in the face of such strong competition, The Redneck Manifesto are just a touch short of the originality they could once claim. There’s not a whole lot here we haven’t heard a few times over the last year or two, though whether that’s the fault of The Redneck’s or the bands they undoubtedly influenced is entirely a matter of perspective. The Redneck Manifesto are no doubt a subtler and more enticing proposition than most -math rock’ acts all in, but there were times when we genuinely wondering if we were listening to a new record from any of the bands they have influenced along the way. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it does take away just a little of the wow factor.