Originally published in Punk Planet July/August 2006
For the better part of three decades, The Red Krayola has dominated — and, in many instances, helped map and define — the ever-shifting intersection of underground rock and the avant-garde. Introduction, the latest in the parade of Drag City releases kicked off with 1994’s self-titled gem, only strengthens the group’s role as a kind of cultural crossing guard.
There’s art-damaged, genre-bending pop exercises [“Note To Selves,” “It Will Be (Delivered)”] and haunted, instrumental Gastr-isms (“Elegy”), energized rock-workouts (“Psy Ops”) and dissonant shards of alien folk-blues (“Greasy Street,” a future template for label-mate Bill Callahan). Then there are the details that only Mayo Thompson and company could sketch out for us: the way funky guitars and John McEntire’s jazzy percussion give way to lyrics that could be a commentary on colonialism in “Cruise Boat,” the joyous, life-affirming refrains of “Vexations,” the Johnny Cash growl and Howe Gelb country-segues of “Breakout.”
There’s a bursting kind of energy and vitality The Red Krayola manages to project in its finest moments that many acts fail to muster with progressions pumped full of more volume but lacking the necessary sincerity. On the ensemble’s latest, we get glimpses of what they do best — an appropriate introduction for the uninitiated, as well as the next piece of conversation for those already engaged.