Matador by Red Rum Club starts with the imposing sound of galloping hooves. It barely relents from there. The average urban statue tends to relegate horses to second billing, generally functioning as four-legged plinths to give some imperialist twonk something impressive between his legs. Red Rum, however, was the kind of legendary horse (three-time winner of the Grand National and twice second in the years between wins two and three) that warranted a statue all of his own. Quite a talented nag.
From the wild, wild North West, home of Aintree Racecourse, comes this Liverpudlian magnificent six on Modern Sky Records, the label that blessed 2018 with the likes of The Slow Readers Club, The Blinders and Catholic Action. With a hefty dose of Scouse forebears, The Zutons, The Coral and Space, and more than a hint of The Last Shadow Puppets, they make plenty of cinematic big noise. Underlying their indie stomp, Red Rum Club’s sound is individualised by a ubiquitous trumpet line, a Mersey mariachi touch that takes you from the Canal Turn to the OK Corral in just a couple of taps of a valve.
There’s a sense on this album that wrangling with love and/or desire is akin to the frontier skirmishes of cowboys vs Indians (aka chucking the indigenous folk off their land and getting narked when they object). ‘Angeline’ begins the cavalry charge, filled with the portentous atmosphere of The Damned’s version of ‘Eloise’. On ‘Honey’, the addressee is told, “You’ll be the death of me,” with an obvious ambivalence as to whether that desire is figuratively a good thing, or literally a gradual killer. Another high point, ‘Would You Rather Be Lonely?’ has the harmonies, the bounce and the anthemic chorus of Clean Cut Kid, with additional Merseybeat drums, embellished with spectacular ‘Hoo-ha’ chants worthy of fellow Scouse melodramatists, Frankie Goes To Hollywood on ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome’.
Just to tantalise, they leave us waiting until track ten for the album to conclude with the title track, the stand-out ‘Matador’. It occupies the correct place, both in terms of the band’s soundtrack (it’s definitely a ‘riding off into the sunset’ tune) and their message. “Slow me down, my head’s in bits again./ Spin me round so I’m the piece that fits again,” is a hopeful appeal to the loving but torturous ‘matador’ figure to relent, before ending with a semi-positive, hopeful command, “Take that look from off your face tonight.” So riding into the sunset seems part victory, part tactical retreat, to recuperate before the next arduous amour Alamo.
There’s plenty to enjoy on this album – a few fistfuls of dollars here and there, and neither a hint of tumbleweed nor a patchy moment to be found. Whether all ten tracks have enough variety to consistently blaze your saddle or to elevate Red Rum Club to a status that is truly grand and national remains to be seen, but the Parr Street Studios production quality is lush and rich, and the band does have an admirable and true grit.
Matador is released on 11th January via Modern Sky Records.