Monday, November 4, 2013

Radkey Serves Up Some Devil Fruit

When the Missouri three-piece punk band Radkey released Cat & Mouse earlier this year, they were shortlisted and then set aside for other releases. There is no chance of that with Devil Fruit.

Whether it is merely a better compilation of tracks, a few extra months of touring, or more freedom under their Little Man Records moniker, Devil Fruit better embraces the band's passion for sludgy punk rock. The three Radke brothers — Dee, Isaiah, and Solomon — put down some tight and likable rock with big brassy vocals and wildly unrestrained choruses. It chugs and erupts throughout.

Devil Fruit locks Radkey to play crazy. 

Opening with Start Freaking Out, Radkey sets up its punk cred after opening with some big bass and bangs before a quiet beat and a breakneck sprint into a party song. Although it never ascends into hardcore punk, there is just enough aggression to grab some attention and give it a shake.

Read some live performance reviews and you'll find the track can work as an opener or closer, with the needle pointing more toward the band's 70s punk stylings instead of its 90s alternative flair.

Much of the music from this band is like that. They blend those stylings to create something fresh, especially when matched up with frontman Dee Radke's vocals. And when the noise balance kicks more punk than alternative, Radkey becomes an incredibly convincing band that simultaneously makes you miss 70s punk while appreciating that this is something new and not a throwback.

Interestingly enough, Start Freaking Out isn't what the band led with in advance of the Devil Fruit EP. They put out Romance Dawn instead, which gives alternative rock influences a bluesy baseline and a whole lot of sludge. Elements of it graze what makes roots rock stand out, except this is tougher.

The video also gives the track a psychedelic tickle, even if Radkey never really moves in that direction. The choruses, in fact, are much more counted in pop in contrast to the sections built from deeply addictive blues-infused verse. With just enough rawness and a few great guitar solo licks toward the end, the step-plateu-step arrangement progresses to a perfect climatic end.

Long before even getting to Romance Dawn on the EP, Radkey lays down a rant about their grandfather. The song hits hard because it's anything but flattering. Instead they flail on his lack of ideas and imagination in contrast with their own willingness to reach for bigness.

Maybe that's another reason Radkey is so addictive from beginning to end. They came together to set their pace and direction. Sure, they know it won't be easy. Their third track, Overwhelmed, says as much. Dee and company don't always feel smart about their decisions. Even if it all works for me.

Mostly, Overwhelmed takes a page from grunge-era anger and then loads up the end until it comes completely unhinged. Its position on the album makes sense too. After Overwhelmed, Romance Dawn helps ease everyone down from the adrenaline rush stirred up by the track before it.

In contrast with the hopeful but less assured set that the band offered up with Cat & Mouse, Devil Fruit is the more unforgettable introduction. Not only do they open up more on the new EP, but they've also roughed up any hint of smooth edges because they have a better understanding of the road.

Devil Fruit By Radkey Catches A Big 8.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Yet another reason to like the band is that they deserve it. They are assertive but not pretentious, knowing that ego alone won't take them where they want to go. It's all about good hard work. Even their bios reflect it. Dee studies Japanese alongside guitar. Isaiah might love movies and fantasy fiction more than bass. And Solomon, the youngest, edges out the other two in video game hours.

Right now you can download Romance Dawn from their website (limited time). If you want the entire EP, which comes highly recommended, you can download it from iTunes or find Devil Fruit on Amazon. They have several shows lined up at the end of November and into December. Check dates on Facebook.
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