I have always been a fan of the EP. A band can summarize its sound, show its range, invest itself in a brief message or just throw some songs it had lying around together, and people will buy it blindly based off the band’s previous releases.
Red Collar seems to have used its debut EP, Hands Up, as an introduction. Lead singer Jason Kutchma personalized his press kit to me specifically, citing my review of The Hold Steady/Thermals show as a reason I might appreciate this EP, but stating that he “doesn’t think that’s the best comparison to [them].” Well, he is right. I would venture to place them somewhere between the Constantines and Fugazi. Although, is there really that much difference between either comparison?
All the bands place importance on lyrical content, be it social injustice or social commentary for the unaccounted for (perhaps there have always been those in indie-rock who have put their weight with the “unaccounted for”). Where Red Collar differs from the aforementioned bands is its callousness. For each fallen angel Craig Finn created, Kutchma has a turkey that was never meant to go higher than three feet.
The first two songs are the Fugazi-esque standards. They rock fast, fuzzy and shout the chorus. But the final two songs are reasons to check for Red Collar. “Stay” invites everyone to give up on those higher aspirations for the great wide world and realize they are meant for their small towns. “Used Guitars” is like getting advice from some poor broken sap at a bar who tells you “we were made to fail everyday” and you take it even more nonchalantly as a chorus of bar flies affirms it with slurry “ba ba baduhs.” It is a fair warning that luck was lost at birth, meant to be taken unconscientiously, because there is a good chance it will not spark until it is too late and you are at the stool next to that sap muttering about broken hearts and used guitars to the next generation of young cocks.