Red Red Meat / Red Red Meat
In Chicago in the early ‘90s, combustable rock outfit Friends of Betty, led by songwriter Tim Rutili, collapsed and reconfigured itself as Red Red Meat. In 1992, the band released its self-titled debut on its own Perishable Records imprint. Over the course of its career, Red Red Meat would twist and expand its sound on a series of records for Sub Pop, eventually morphing into experimental outfit Califone, but Red Red Meat finds core members Rutili, Brian Deck, Ben Massarella, and Glenn Girard (along with Jimmy Chamberlin of the Smashing Pumpkins and Friends of Betty bassist Glynis Johnson) playing strutting, feedback-drenched rock & roll.
Produced by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Sea and Cake) and Deck, who’d go on to work with Modest Mouse, Iron and Wine, Josh Ritter, the Fruit Bats and more, the songs of Red Red Meat are brash and aggressive, but represent the band’s first steps into a sonic realm where rhythm, restraint, and open space was as important as punk-influenced noise jams. With Red Red Meat, the band moved into “less bombastic, more groove oriented” sounds, says Ben Massarella, who along with Brian Deck and Chamberlin plays drums on the record. The band found itself drawn to bands like the Velvet Underground and Rolling Stones, toward bands “that had a real good solid groove, and an identity because of it,” Massarella says.
Songs like Robo Sleep, Snowball and early single Hot Nickety Trunk Monkey trash with barraging riffs and funk rhythms, while Molly’s On The Rag and Nice Round Numbers introduce folk and country elements. Cellophane Man, with its lurching Crazy Horse stomp and Sand Box (with a haunting vocal by Johnson) indicate the direction the band would follow on Jimmywine Majestic, Bunny Gets Paid, and thier swan song, There’s a Star Above the Manger Tonight.
The record features beautiful, hilarious, and cryptic lyrics from Rutili. “I get a hard on driving past your house,” he spits over the jittery punk funk of P.C.L.M. “Rabbit eyed, love you and numbness,” he screams mournfully on Rabit Eyed. Rutili’s songs paint alien visuals, owing to his emergence as a filmmaker. His films would play heavily into the identify of Red Red Meat, Massarella says. ‘In my mind, he’s got a complete artistic sense about it.”
This deluxe reissue of the album features alternate takes and rarities, notably the band’s cover of 10cc’s soft rock hit I’m Not In Love, which demonstrates Rutili and the band’s ability to take a song apart, to push it to the point of breaking, employing the song’s familiar melody and pop template before overdriven guitars briefly render the song unrecognizable.
Long out of print and never before available on vinyl, Red Red Meat is unhinged and damaged, introducing elements the band would continue to refine and experiment on, a cocky, unwashed opening salvo from one of ‘90s indie rock’s most influential bands.