Notes on the Underground


There are bands that are content to sit within a pigeonhole and there are bands that diligently push against the edges, rebelling against expectations to find a sound all their own. From the quasi-tribal drumming beginning the opening salvo here, “Cold Hearted,” Red Dons make it clear they aren’t content just fitting in. The tune, at its core a smart bit of minor chord pop, is rife with echoes of time past and present—a bit of post punk here, some garage there, drone, and the ubiquitous, insistent thud in the drums—rearranged and repurposed so that all are present but none overwhelms another. The remaining tunes follow along the same lines, each familiar yet retaining its own sound. The whole? A gritty-yet-tasty selection from a band that continues to wow with each successive release. –Jimmy Alvarado (Grave Mistake)


I just want to put this on record. The Red Dons are one of the best punk bands on the planet. Why anyone who loves real-time punk (and world-class punk, since the birth of punk) is sleeping on them is a mystery. (Or they’re comfortable with their self-delusions/illusions.) I said the same about the Marked Men a decade ago, and although I’m pleased that the Marked Men are getting the recognition they so richly deserve, wouldn’t it be nice that another active band that doesn’t play any stupid corporate games and doesn’t fence walk with morality gets widespread support in real time? Is that too much to ask? This one’s at your feet, DIY punkers. Pick it up. Red Dons are punk giant nostalgia killers. For fuck’s sake, “Cold Hearted” is has a 4:50 run time, is lush, sweeping, epic, and defies expectation. All three songs on this 7” are stunners. –Todd Taylor (Grave Mistake,

NOTES ON THE UNDERGROUND: Reviewed by Lord Rutledge

What’s the best present-day band that I’ve never reviewed before? Easy answer: Red Dons. Why have I never reviewed Red Dons before? That’s the tougher question! But, you know, it’s never too late to atone for past omissions. Red Dons have a new 7″ out on Grave Mistake and Taken By Surprise Records – their first since last summer’s “Ausländer”. And in keeping with previous releases, their sound continues to be one-of-a-kind yet still firmly in the realm of the melodic punk style I’m known to tout. Not many punk bands are releasing A-sides nearly five minutes in length. Even fewer could actually get away with it! But “Cold Hearted”, which leads off Notes On The Underground, is up there with the best of the Red Dons’ 7″ tracks. Imagine, if you will, a genetic experiment where Echo and the Bunnymen’s DNA got mixed with the Marked Men’s. The intro approaches two minutes and highlights some truly exquisite lead guitar work. It’s brooding and eerie, but by no means plodding. Even after the vocals come in, the song’s dark undercurrent is no way obscured by its overt catchiness. If this is a sign of what’s to come from Red Dons, we all should be very excited!

The back half of Notes On The Underground is more conventional but hardly pedestrian. “Losing Track” is textbook contemporary pop/punk with catchy leads, chunky bass lines, crazy sick drumming, and a melody that you will not be able to get out of your head for weeks. Coming on the heels of the more measured “Cold Hearted”, it brings a nice surge of energy to the record. It’s my fave track of the three. “Dead Ender” is in a similar vein of crisp & punchy melodic punk. It didn’t shock me to discover that the latter two tracks were recorded a few years back, while “Cold Hearted” was just recorded this year. But in spite of the contrast between the sides, Notes On The Underground is an entirely satisfying EP. “Losing Track” and “Dead Ender” may be “lighter” in tone than Red Dons standards like “Ausländer” and “A Forced Turning Point”. But they are killer tracks, and are sure to please anyone who’s nuts for the “Dirtnap sound” . Given that the core members of this band are separated by thousands of miles and a very large ocean, it’s no surprise that Notes On The Underground was three years in the making. But if you’re a fan, you’ll have to admit it was totally worth the wait. My first Red Dons review will definitely not be my last!


I need to make a statement before continuing with this review of the latest release from The Red Dons: I am a doofus.

Why, you might ask, am I being harsh on myself? Well, it’s because I’ve ignored Red Dons for far too long and am mystified by my oversight given that the band is like a mixture of the Marked Men and the Steve Adamyk Band, a combination that means Red Dons are likely to be better than many bands you have heard or are likely to hear. Oh yes, they’re that good, and this 7-inch contains three tracks of some of the most glorious power-pop-punk you are likely to hear for some time to come.

What makes the Red Dons so good? Well, great songs and a great sound are a strong start for any band and that’s clearly evident on these three tracks. There is a self-assurance inherent in them, which allows the band to take their time and not rush into anything. “Cold Hearted” is a triumph of songwriting, as it slowly builds with an intro that is over a minute and a half long — reminding me of the Arctic Flowers — with edgy guitars and a brooding, tight bass and drum combo. When the vocals kick in, the song steps up a few gears and there’s another three minutes or so of sheer quality based around an eminently catchy tune.

Where “Cold Hearted” has a long, slow burning fuse, “Losing Track” takes less time to kick into gear and is a much more upbeat and immediate song, although “Dead Ender” tramples down the door from the off, overturning tables, chairs and anything in its way as it races along at a fair clip to deliver more attention-grabbing moments. I can’t help but think of the Dickies’ Leonard Graves Phillips when listening to all three songs, given the occasional strong similarities that Douglas Burns’ vocals have to those of one of the most distinctive singers in punk rock, and let’s be fair, that’s not a bad thing to have in your arsenal. There is something untouchable about this release, as it’s got the perfect combination in terms of sound, songs and delivery.

Listening to these songs is effortless and hugely enjoyable which in my book form part of why this band is so marvellous. So, don’t be a doofus, leave that to me; snap this up like an alligator taking down its prey; devour it totally and luxuriate in the pleasure that this record offers up and while doing so, feel blessed that you are not like me. The fact is I do actually have a copy of the band’s Fake Meets Failure but I’ve not really got round to listening to it but there’s no doubt that I’m heading in that direction once I’ve finished typing.

Leave a Reply