Winston Audio seems to be having an identity crisis, or at least its debut record The Red Rhythm is. The Atlanta natives managed to score a very well produced record for their first full length with quite a bit of time to work on it after they released their opening EP. But even with all this working for them, there still lingers a lack of cohesion at times, taking the record from heavy southern fueled post grunge to shamelessly predictable VH1 loving rock. Even more, these guys are good at both. They can just as well write an adult contemporary hit as they could pen a bar room rock anthem, the only problem is that neither should be on the same record.
When they rock, they rock it like its 1997. The opening three tracks play like the alternative rock of a post-Cobain world: a little more melodic, but still sharp. Keeping It Down manages to throw in some head banging riffs with the vocals coming across a little Chris Cornell-like when they hit their peak. These are the moments that work. Stylistically, nothing is new or ground breaking here, but that doesnt mean they are lacking by any means especially for straight ahead rock that isnt all washed out. They also manage to throw some serious weight around with tracks like Hey Anne going as far as to add in a horn section turning the song in to a rock n roll New Orleans funeral precession.
The band is quick to acknowledge their southern roots on many of the album’s best tracks, bringing in strong country, blues song structures that hold some religious undertones that circle around deep personal conflicts. Such is the case with Devils Bed and the records excellent, folk inspired closer Troubles. Another surprise comes when they trade in the power chords for easy to please vocal melodies and guitars that are left to ring out with simple strums, making tracks like Nothing To Hide one of the best on record. All of these moments show us the potential this band carries, but there is the flip side that leaves you disappointed just as quick.
Where The Red Rhythm begins to lose it is with songs like Martyr, Smoke Signals, and the soft rock ballad Action, Reaction. These are the tracks that seem forced and all too standard for a world that, frankly, has been saturated with this kind of rock (especially with the last of the three). They come across as popped out Cornell b-sides in which all the edge has been seized, leaving them smoothed out and predictable. What could have been a great rock record has instead been thwarted, leaving me at times wondering if it’s even the same band. The sad part about it is Winston Audio is better than this. You can hear the potential on the record, but the lack of cohesion ends up dragging it down in the end.
Its hard to say which direction they will go with for the next go around, but maybe this could be it, choosing to tempt fate and go both ways, following in grunges footsteps while reaching for radio credibility. This duality makes the record one of individual pieces, and not a whole unit. Just because you have everyones favorite flavor doesnt mean they should all go together.