Having seen My Red Cell play live, I knew I liked their tunes. Unfortunately, muddy acoustics meant that I had been completely unable to hear the vocals of their energetic lead singer, Russell Toomey. So, in an effort to make sense of what I’d heard, I took half an hour to look through the liner notes of their debut album, 13 In My 31, before listening to it.
A battlefield of disturbing ditties lay in wait: knives, guns, bullets, bombs, cuts, bruises and tears. Not to mention a rotted brain, a lot of burnt kids, some babies dropped on their heads plus three hearts (two broken and one bleeding). Whoa! Maybe, the muddiness was intentional.
So it was with some apprehension that I put 13 In My 31 on the stereo. However I was pleasantly surprised. The violence of the lyrics seemed far less harsh in their natural surrounding: the ragged clatter of a band that knows how to rock.
The album opener, In A Cage (On Prozac) has an agreeably melodic intro and a meaty middle bit. Toomey’s rhythmic spluttering, bristling with murderous rage, fits well into the dynamic of the song. It is an enlivening experience, and simply demands to be turned up to annoy-your-neighbour levels of volume. The mosh-pit will like this one.
Most of the tracks chronicle the topsy-turvy world of Toomey’s love life. Love lost, love never gained (and the scarily obvious desire to stab the bloke that got in the way) are the focal points.
However, there is also some observation and storytelling to provide the odd break from all the doom and gloom. Going Out For Nothing has a two chord riff to die for and is a hymn to nights on the town spent doing nothing more than getting off your head. It is most comparable to the swampy rock stylings of their current tour-mates The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and is one of the most likely on the album to receive commercial interest.
Toomey’s vocal performance is broadly similar to that of an angry Jack White, or The Datsuns‘ Dolf, souped-up on a diet of Red Bull and dodgy mushrooms. But it does have its more tender moments, as on Fifty Quid – a moment of relative serenity near the end of a storm of verbal shrapnel.
It really is the riffs that are the most impressive thing about this album. At times the simple elegance of a White Stripes progression is achieved as on Head In The Ground. Say hello to Aerosmith in the first part of Her Religion and note the blatant AC/DC on Tell Me Nice. My Red Cell recall these legendary rock acts of yesteryear, but they make them sound fresh, and they do it with style. Maybe it’s the lack of cat-suits and crap haircuts (yeah I’m looking at you The Darkness).
As with everything though, you do get some rough with your diamonds. Take for example, You Dumb – it alternates between jangly guitars with harmonised lyrics and distorted power chords with the moronic repetition of the word “baby”. It’s pretty horrific, I can tell you.
If you were wondering about the title of the album, Russell Toomey suffers (as do I) from the dubious honour of having the Devil’s luck (13 letters in a name), which is supposedly a curse. Not one to shrink from this problem, Toomey wrote 31 songs for the album and selected 13 for the final cut. Need I tell you how many minutes between the twelfth and “hidden” thirteenth track? Not only an unusual and interesting gimmick, it actually comes off reasonably effectively.
It seems that Toomey and the rest of My Red Cell have broken the curse though. 13 In My 31 is by no means flawless, but it is an extremely impressive debut.