Traditionally reggae has had either religion or politics as its driving force, which is understandable when it’s viewed as an outlet for the oppressed people of Jamaica. Lately though, reggae has tended to be subverted by the middle class and has been churned out in an easy listening format, almost a reggae-lite, more commonly associated with BBQs, beaches and beers.
Melbourne’s The Red Eyes take us back to a time before the bastardisation of reggae with their latest album Red Army. This is reggae as it sounded in the Jamaican heyday of the early 80’s; warm tones, lots of reverb, and a (slight) revolutionary bent wrapped up in a professional package.
Frontman El Witeri brings a New Zealand flavour to the album, with an introduction in Maori and a song touching on the exploits of Riwha Titokowaru during New Zealand’s land wars.
There were moments on the album where I’d get confused between songs; there is a lot of similarity between some of the tracks, and at 15 songs long there’s a lot of them, but this is a problem common to a lot of reggae and shouldn’t detract from enjoyment of what is a pretty damn fine display of local (well, Australasian) reggae.
So if you’re a fan of well made reggae and are looking for something a bit different check out Red Army and keep an eye out for the Red Eyes when they’re over our way.
The Red Eyes, “Melbourne’s own Reggae Superstars”, have firmly established their position as one of Australia’s leading original Dub/Reggae acts. Known for their explosive live shows, the 7-piece combines masterful beats and shake the house dub rhythms with heartfelt lyrics that offer a unique antipodean spin on the broad Reggae genre. The band is led on stage by enigmatic front man El Witeri who draws on his Maori heritage for inspiration.
Recent release Red Army received critical acclaim including a nomination for Best Blues & Roots Album at the 2010 Australian Independent Record Label Awards and Album of the Week on PBS FM and Radio Australia. Building on their 9 year history and the success of previous full length release Rudeworld (2007) and EP’s Prolific/My Kingdom (2005) and Highplace (2004), The Red Eyes have enjoyed solid airplay in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Canada, collectively selling over 12,000 albums and EP’s worldwide.
Since their inception in 2002 The Red Eyes have toured widely in Australia, regularly playing at major festivals nationwide including Woodford Folk Festival, Pyramid Rock, Meredith, Peats Ridge, Bellingen Global Carnival, Great Escape Festival, St Kilda Festival, Raggamuffin, Earthcore and Island Vibe. International performances include Fest du Nord in New Caledonia, and forthcoming appearances at Fest Napuan in Vanuatu later in 2011 and a string of dates in NZ in Jan 2012 will see them further extend their pacific reach. They have supported or been billed alongside artists including Mary J Blige, Jimmy Cliff, Maxi Priest, Horace Andy, Luciano, The Mad Professor, Easy Star All Stars, Dub Syndicate, The Original Wailers, Salmonella Dub, The Black Seeds, Katchafire, Cornerstone Roots, Concord Dawn, Sola Rosa, Pitch Black and The Resin Dogs to name a few.