The Reds

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Philadelphia's Reds cast a powerful shadow over their late-'70s and early-'80s albums, which were too gut-crunching for the new wave crowd but not flashy enough for metalheads weaned on the genre's instrumental pyrotechnics. Guitarist and frontman Rick Shaffer's lyrics often seemed too intense for the narrowness of Top 40 radio, which gave little time to tracks like "Lookout," his nearly seven-minute screed against complacency. That's a shame, since Shaffer and his bandmates are smart, accomplished players. Keyboardist Bruce Cohen consistently spices up the proceedings with unobtrusive yet effective organ and synthesizer blasts. Bassist Jim Peters and drummer Tommy Geddes stake their own claims, playing as lead instruments when necessary and pulling back when the song demands it; the old criticism of "more attitude than capability" doesn't stick here. Like most debuts, the Reds' first album is a short, sharp-shock, show-'em-what-you-got affair, although not solely dependent on sound and fury to put its points across. Shaffer mainly preoccupies himself with relationships; judging by "Victims," "Luxury," and "Over and Over," he's not having much luck. The most powerful salvos come last, with "Lookout" on side one, while the disaffected "Self-Reduction" brings the album to a powerful close. However, mainstream listeners didn't get the point, so the Reds' stay at A&M proved a brief one (although Shaffer and Cohen -- who've since moved into TV and film soundtracks -- continue to record as a studio-only unit). Still, the heaviness and emphasis on inner conflicts shouldn't put off anyone searching for some truly intense, yet intelligent, music.

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