It’s not uncommon for punk bands to tackle political subject matter, but it is unusual to hear the language of Republican politics appear in a punk song. That’s what makes the title track from Harrington Saints’ newest 7”, “Red State,” so compelling; while the song itself is not actually “red,”it utilizes the language as a discussion point in order to uncover the politics and psychology of frustration (which is ultimately what put the United States in the situation that it is currently attempting to rectify and justify). It’s a very different angle from which to approach what is fairly well-tread musical terrain, and that is the thing that listeners will find utterly engrossing here.
With little in the way of lead-up, “Red State” just digs in and begins throwing images that any left-leaning voter would find disconcerting around. Right off the bat, singer Darrel Wojick starts spitting out lines like “Sitting home, watching TV/ Fox news on repeat/ Always looking for someone to blame/ New ideas make you insane” and, at least initially, the anger in his voice actually overrides the words themselves; the talk of notoriously red Fox News alone is enough to make the little hairs on listeners’ collective neck stand at attention, and it takes a few seconds to really grasp the underlying meaning of the lyrics. It’s only after listeners add the “The TV news keeps your head full of rage. To keep your mind off your poverty Red state USA!” bit which punctuates the indictment of, “When you Got a problem you’re quick to attack/ Declaring war against this or that” that everything starts to make sense and, when listeners put all those pieces together, the relief is unimaginable; after they grasp the intention of what they’ve heard, they’ll begin to appreciate it. That too is when the song really gets some traction under it as the twin guitar attack of Jayson Shepard and Mike C. gets some good grind and Mike Miller’s bass gets a little darker, and it doesn’t take long for listeners to fall right in line behind the band as the continues pulling apart the disillusionment that American politics has been perpetuating lately (“Hey hey hey Guns gays and where to piss/ Always hung up on the same old list/ Misspelled signs and misguided rage/ Have become the red state way”). By the time it ends and the single’s A-side needs changing, listeners will find themselves wiping their collective brow; the weight of this side is incredible, and the keen discipline with which it was delivered is fantastic.
Compared to “Red State,” listeners will find that, in spite of its delivery being as-hard-if-not-more-aggressive, “Life Less Ordinary” feels like the poppier option when they find it on the single’s B-side. While the song is indeed a little slower of tempo than “Red State,” there’s no denying that lines like “Salute the flag since you were a young boy/ Small town living, American dreams/ But you didn’t know the price that it carried when you went and joined the military/ All u wanted was a life less ordinary” carry more than a little poison with their delivery. However, the real bite comes when Wojick seems to really find a personal stake in the running and really gets vitriolic; the power and poignancy of the lyrics, “Through the ages the poor fought for the rich/ Who started wars for their own benefit/ This wasn’t anything exciting or new/ They called it “kings’ schilling” well before you.” In a word, that’s harsh. It’s damning. It’s perfect.
Taken together, the two sides of the “Red State” single amount to the kind of political commentary that recent days (and, really, the current Presidential administration) have been sorely lacking, somehow. Lots of critics have taken a few minutes to berate Donald Trump’s tendencies and tactics now that he’s “operating” the country (“running” isn’t the appropriate term), but none have really made that criticism hit anyone as hard as (in this critic’s opinion) it really should – there has always been a comical or cartoonish quality about it which ultimately lightens the whole thing up. Not so here – on the “Red State” single, Harrington Saints punch their weight at every turn through its six and a half-minute run-time and leave listeners feeling the impact. [Bill Adams]