Red Kate Turns It Up to 11 With Their New Album Exit Strategy

Written by Bella Landes

Kansas City based punk rock band Red Kate follows-up to their 2016 album Unamerican Activities, with their new album Exit Strategy that builds off of the base that Unamerican Activities left behind.


The tone of the album is very guitar heavy, as like its predecessor. A lot of the songs invoke the thought of “I swear I’ve heard something like this before”. As someone whose dad played burned punk rock CD’s in the car for most of their childhood – that thought has peered into my mind far too many times. I’ve sat there half inattentively at my desk just trying to figure out what the songs remind me of, but as someone who is not a punk rock connoisseur, I still feel just as clueless as before.


“Don’t Think Too Much” opened the album with me thinking more about the riffs than the lyrics. If anything, I didn’t think too much about this song. Part of Red Kate’s charm is the way their influences blend together into a cohesive album. I find myself throughout the time I have listened to this wondering where I have heard this sound before. I still do not have that figured out.


Following that song, “She’s in Love” takes a different approach, starting with vocals that make it sound like a song by the Ramones. Then, the song goes back to the status-quo of a Red Kate album – loud instruments and thrashing vocals. The way the chorus is sung sounds very similar to the Ramones, and it makes me question how much the Ramones contributed to the creation of this album – but then again they are the fathers of punk rock. If you call yourself a punk rock band, it is almost inevitable that the Ramones manifest in some way in your work.


Things hit peak cluelessness when “Escape Room” started playing, and I thought “HEY, THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE CURE!”, and then I remembered that this could be considered an insult to the band. So, I do take back my statement on it sounding like the Cure, and I promise to never mention that again. I found myself questioning why I thought this, but quite frankly in some parts of the song the vocals sounded like Robert Smith, and my only guess is the fragments of vocals that do sound like that. This is one of the more tame songs off of the album, and in my humble opinion, this is the strongest song thus far.


Anyhow, following my existential crisis regarding whether or not lead vocalist L. Rod Drunkard (a play on L. Ron Hubbard from the church of scientology) sounds like Robert Smith, I got to hear “I Don’t Want to Hear About It”. Quite frankly, the song is alright. Again, the way the vocals are belted out sound like the Ramones! The vocals itself do NOT sound like the Ramones, I am just saying… For the record, I refuse to drop this Ramones comparison – because what else am I going to compare it to?


“Home of the Slave” is a continual reminder of the political bearings of the band. Just going off of their bandcamp page – they are a “no bullshit, class conscious punk rock band”, and they certainly are not lying. The song is essentially a history lesson about slavery packed into a Red Kate song. This is one of the things I do appreciate about Red Kate – the incorporation of historical things into their music. Such as, with their previous album Unamerican Activities. Then again, I am one-hundred-percent biased since my major is related to history.


When it came to “No Solution”, my attention towards the album peaked. If that song was being played out of context and I was told by whomever that the band is British, I would one-hundred-percent believe them. The band’s bandcamp lists them as being influenced by British pub-rock – and clearly in that song those influences show, and it manifests in an interesting way. Once again, continuing with the political theme of “Home of the Slave”, this song incorporates the modern politics of freedom and the political dumpster fire that is America into your typical Red Kate song.


“Mind Control”; has my mind been controlled into thinking they sound kind of like the Ramones? Again, this song focuses on freedom, facing madness, and embracing sadness. I find this to be the central theme of the band – freedom is a common theme in their songs, they face the madness and embrace the sadness into their songs. Hole is the song that follows “Mind Control”, and it starts off with some backwards vocals that had me confused on the first listen. Then I realized that there is a hole in my head, and that I should just read the lyrics next time. This song is short and sweet, and again, fits the theme of embracing sadness.


The song that follows “Hole”, “Urban Church”, provides Red Kate’s insight on modern religion – as like most punk rock bands, it’s a secular take. Of course, Red Kate ties in more politics, with the song beginning with “you’ll believe almost anything if your god told you so”, which is something that is more than true for a lot of people. Another core component of the thoughts that this album explores.


“Lost Connection” continues onward with the theme of fooling me into thinking they are British. Of course, like with many of the other songs on this album, it has a focus on freedom – and how there are invisible wires that are chaining us down. If anything, it provides their commentary on man and machine – a conversation that has definitely gained relevance since their previous album.


The second to last track on the album, “Iraqi Girl” sets itself apart as being a heavier track on the album. Another politicized song, that seems to imply the mess that was the Iraq war – the amount of lies, and the amount of lives lost.


The final track on the album, “Shut it Down”, takes a different approach. It shuts down the album effectively. I felt that the instruments synchronized with each other perfectly, for me, this was the highlight of the album. Like the track prior to it, it does feel heavier in comparison to the rest of the album – as well as its predecessor.


What sets this album apart from Unamerican Activities is the increased focus on a polished punk rock sound, as much as those words do not belong in the same sentence. To me, I found Exit Strategy to have a more polished sound, while at the same time turning it up to an 11. It’s like if you gave Unamerican Activities a bunch of red bull and an amp that is set to the highest level.


If you are an avid fan of hoarding punk rock CDs in your beat up mustang, I highly recommend this album. With that being said, as someone who typically does not listen to this genre of music, I find it unlikely that I will revisit it in the future – but if I were, I am sure it would be on a lot of my playlists.