“I want to play bass in London. I don’t fuck around.” That’s what Wyoming raised bass player Shawn Day emailed to vocalist and guitarist Richard Frenneaux in what were the formative steps towards the formation of recent Radio 1 botherers Red Light Company. Day had just heard the future Red Light Company single, Scheme Eugene (more on that later), and was responding to an advert posted by Frenneaux who was desperate to find a bass player for a forthcoming gig in London.
At least that’s what the band would have the 200,000 people that have visited their MySpace page believe. The story degenerates into suitably pretentious rock and roll histrionics about denied entry to countries and beating all the odds in order to play music together. And so it was, Red Light Company formed in 2007, snuggling themselves into the musical bosom of our nation with puppy-dog eyes, and a penchant for anthemic indie rock. A romantic story – if a little detached from the truth.
For what Red Light Company fail to mention, is that prior to this band, three of the five members (the aforementioned electronic pen friends plus drummer James Griffiths) were playing together in a Cardiff based band called Dirty Perfect. A band who in 2005 wrote and released, wait for it, Scheme Eugene. A full two years before the (alleged) formation of Red Light Company. Funny that.
PR blunders aside, Fine Fascination is a very listenable debut. Opening with the scything, treble soaked guitars of Words Of Spectacular, the song finds Frenneaux’s vocal restlessly flicking the switch between full voice and falsetto in a manner that sounds as awesome as it does slightly twisted, and is an early marker of his patent vocal talent.
It is Scheme Eugene that takes the early plaudits, however. The song is radically different from the cheap lo-fi thrill of the Dirty Perfect original, and is substantially more wholesome, produced, and yet more measured than its predecessor. Built around a cleansing glockenspiel riff, the backing vocals are superb, the chorus rousing and memorable.
Current single Arts & Crafts is another ear-pricking listen, and features a guitar line that sounds like an offcut from The Edge‘s goliath tapestry of guitar riffs. But the song also taps into the rather unashamed commercial heart of Red Light Company. Their songs are big, very well produced, and very easy to get along with, following fairly standard structures and ideas. The Architect and (the embarrassingly radio friendly) Meccano are the best examples of this. But is it all a little too easy? Is it all a bit too radio friendly? People have enough to worry about at the moment without another Snow Patrol on their hands.
And while Fine Fascination is reminiscent of The Corrections‘ much underrated debut album, Repeat After Me, the latter left the jagged edges that Red Light Company have meticulously smoothed off. As a result The Corrections’ debut had a feral quality, and was all the better for it, and still had a songwriting core that was big enough to capture large audiences and polished enough for prime-time radio consumption.
Despite this, Fine Fascination is a hugely assured debut, and boasts moments that more than justify their rapidly growing fanbase. Regardless of the fact that at times Red Light Company sound like they’ve sold out before they’ve even really begun, even the filler on Fine Fascination has its redeeming qualities. And when they get the mix right, and perhaps focus less on pleasing their target audience and more on pleasing themselves, the resulting sound is irrefutably promising.