A year or so ago, the Redwalls’ Universal Blues took aim at that tricky split-fan demographic of 10-year-old girls and Catholic clergy pedophiles. Now the album art for De Nova is artificially scuffed up and the Redwalls no longer look like a bunch of Harry Potters—they look like a modern Brit band that can’t get arrested in the States.
Emulating the Beatles, these Chicagoans actually pay attention to some details—like the guitars, which do indeed sound Fab Four. But almost half the time, the songs aren’t as peppy as you’d expect from a crew featuring someone who sounds like John Lennon shouting exclamations between verses and choruses. Horns, violins, backwards guitar, and mellotron noise are caked on for an even more limey feel. Sometimes this works as polished psychedelia (“Front Page”); in other places it’s just limp FM-ready pop (“Hung Up on the Way I’m Feeling”).
“It’s Alright” and “Rock & Roll” blast the languor away with snappy r&b. The former is the Redwalls’ best tune, a carryover from their last record, and if you’re already familiar with it you’ll be a little disappointed they didn’t bring the fractured reggae version of ZZ Top’s “Balinese” along, too. The band curses the FCC a couple times in “Falling Down,” but they’re nice guys who in no way deserve the “explicit content” warning.