Red Racer
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Red Racer

Band Rock Pop


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Friday, Aug. 26
Local quartet Red Racer has such an extremely polished pop-rock sound that even the guitar distortion that serves as the intro to the "The Biz" (from the group's new "Wake Up, Wake Up" EP) resonates impeccably. Singer/guitarist Tom Townshend recalls local indie hero Ted Leo with his vocal delivery on this track, but more often you'll hear the influences of "big rock" bands like Coldplay, U2 and Weezer. Those are some lofty heights to aspire to, and Red Racer still has some work to do in distinguishing itself from the countless bands with the same influences. But it all starts with the songwriting and Red Racer is ahead of the curve there. Most impressive is the EP's title track, a catchy low-key rocker that the group has the good sense to end in just under two minutes, forgoing any unnecessary bridges, outros or solos. Red Racer will be opening for the recently reunited locals Caligari -- themselves fine purveyors of moody new wave/post-punk -- at the Black Cat. -

A band name like Red Racer conjures up visions of a small child’s wheeled toy. But if you dig just a little deeper than this outfit’s youthful handle, you’ll discover a smartly mature rock band instead.

The quartet is led by vocalist Tom Townshend, who has an impossible-to-ignore voice that reminds one of The Church’s Steve Kilbey in his best moments. The group’s sound is straight guitar rock, with instrumentation mixed perfectly so that the listener can make out every Townshend vocal syllable. It’s not until “Fighter Jets,” a full three songs in, that a full electric guitar assault – complete with a rocking solo – finally breaks out through the speakers. Many of these tracks, instead, feel like ominous tremors, which are nervously itching to burst out into full-on quakes.

Red Racer’s songs are honest and questioning lyrical ruminations. Life is certainly no bed of roses, at least according to the messages of “Wake Up, Wake Up” and “Living Hell.” Then with “The Biz,” Townshend sings, “We are living a dream.” But despite these dark words, this act doesn’t come off completely hopeless, like doom ‘n gloomers can. It’s just a case where one band has the guts to ask the hard questions without pulling any punches.

Don’t be fooled by this fine outfit’s Toys R Us-like name association, because Wake Up, Wake Up is clearly not child’s play.


Red Racer (2008) - Self-titled full length
Wake Up, Wake Up (2005)
EP1 (2002)
Skyline Drive (2001)



The Story So Far..........
Above a dark, seedy DC dive bar, RED RACER has built its own brand of pop-addicted Rock and Roll. The DC quartet’s newly released EP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP, finally lets loose the songs born from this obsession with catchy music. Living Hell, a U2-meets-Oasis romp that climaxes with a blistering guitar solo, contrasts starkly with a song like The Biz, with its boppy, light verses and driving, dirty refrain. But the theme remains: Whether it’s Fernando’s britpop guitar tricks, Brad Roberson’s 80’s Top 40 Beat Library, or Steve Ridzon’s genre-hopping bass pulses, every piece of the puzzle builds to the “Big Pop Chorus,” delivered by the unusual voice of frontman Tom Townshend.