The sophomore LP from Kansas City punks Red Kate is a series of songs decrying the rise of corporate interests by means of the declining working class. And for the most part, the 13 tracks on the quartet’s Unamerican Activities have a distinctly political bent born of a righteous indignation at what’s been done to the average person, and how politicians twist words to achieve less than honorable goals.
You feel it right from the start, with the anti-polemic “You Don’t Speak For Me” kicking off the first side in a furious screed against those very politicians who would attempt to deny the revolution; if they even see it coming at all. It continues on through the first side, with stops at songs like “I Got A Gun,” from the perspective of those hoodwinked and bamboozled by those who would take advantage, only to conclude with the fiery “Take It Back,” whose spoken word portion might be the blast which really ignites the album.
The sole missteps are “Her Lips Say Yes” and “Get Out,” which just seem like throwback rock ‘n’ rollers, out of step with the rest of the tracks. There’s also “On My Mind,” which is kind of along the lines of those two, but in a less overt manner, which works. It’s not as full of cocksure swagger, but still manages to convey a sense of romantic longing. Granted, it’s been released before, having come out on their 2014 split with fellow KC punk act the Bad Ideas, but it’s one of those songs that’s so perfectly written, another go isn’t anything with which to be upset.
Bonus points to Red Kate for their cover of Nick Lowe’s “Heart of the City,” which manages to be true to the pub rock roots of the original, while still picking up some of Red Kate’s angry fervor. It’s a nice counterpoint to the song which kicks off the second side, “You Ought to Know,” which presents a bit of a dark opinion of living in the urban core.
Unamerican Activities is pressed on standard black vinyl, but it’s good and heavy. It’s a trifle over-whelming, and sounds a little blown out at times, but it works for the music being presented.
The artwork by Shaun Hamontree is absolutely amazing. The cover design is simple and clean, and the red on black is eye-catching and distinctive. His illustrations on the printed inner jacket also look excellent, and both sides together would make a killer set of matched prints for someone’s record room. The way the liner notes and center labels on the LP tie into the Black Site label logo on the back of the jacket is just masterful, as well. It’s all a great bit of redacted documentation, looking like something acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Unamerican Activities” is available from Black Site.