If you’re into lyrics with a message, live instruments without overdubs or samples or sound machines, Tommy Red’s I Wanna be Exploited should fill your need. Based in Detroit, Michigan, Red has been playing music since he was five. Starting with drums at that time and then switching permanently to the guitar at 11, he was previously a part of the band Red Edison, but since broke away and Exploited is his first solo debut.
He describes his style as “new” alternative and his sound closely resembling artists such as Beck, Cage the Elephant, 21 Pilots, Beastie Boys and the Shins. Red also has notoriety to his name as well – with performances on both national radio and television, specifically songs featured on a Lifetime original movie called “Stranger at the Door.” He is also a member of ASCAP, which if you’re a musician in the music business, pretty much means you’re not just fooling around – you’re serious.
Thematically, Exploited is about self realization and self deprecation and lyrically, each song has a story. Some songs are quite heavy with words, so all you lovers of words out there should dig this album. The album starts off with a jazzy flute and goes right into a rock funk rap about it being a drag that “I can’t have my felonies.” It’s a statement about wanting things in life but you cannot get them, at least without getting a felony. “Ex-Catholic” has an alt-rock feel with some throwback sounds of the ‘70s and ‘80s good time rock n’ roll.
“Hello (Won’t You Go Away)” has an acoustic folk-rock slacker feel a la Beck’s “Loser” and a mouthful of words addressing a relationship that needs to end. “Raise a Glass” is a really well done protest song about the poisoned, undrinkable water in Flint, Michigan – lots of rapping lyrics in this one not to mention plenty of sarcasm. “Still Inside Your Head” rocks pretty hard and also has a ‘70/’80s feel at times, maybe because the keyboards had that classic sound along with some tight power guitar chords.
With the last number “Running” Tommy Red really throws a great curve ball. Musically, the song shows a softer side to his songwriting in the form of an apology. Red turns off the rapping and harder rock voice and opens up with a soulful, heartfelt vocal. The last line really hits the mark – “I’m sorry for tomorrow that we’ll never really know.”
Overall, this was a pretty well rounded debut from a recording artist who shows a lot of promise.
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