Red Red Meat
Bunny Gets Paid: Deluxe Edition
Sub Pop

Coming into the world as they did, a scruffy Chicago bunch equally in love with the kinda scorched blues that was more Delta than Windy City and the sorta dissonance that laced the American underground, Red Red Meat may have shared some immaterial commonalities with the grungy sound of the times (the mid-90s), but their dalliances were built on the kind of small gestures that had little chance of widespread recognition amongst all those big riffs. Being on the pre-eminent label of the era, Sub Pop, is probably the only thing that kept them from being instantaneously lost to the dustbin.

Fortunately that was case, though. After one release on their own Perishable imprint, the band put out a trio of records, each one unique and decidedly different from the others, on the label. Jimmywine Majestic, from 1994, is wildly esoteric, a rewiring of Americana into sparking synapses and deconstructed signifiers. On the other end, 1997’s There’s a Star Above the Manger Tonight melds the fragmented sounds the band hand once seemed so intent on keeping separate, etheric blues and post-(No) Depression country sifted together and prefacing what guitarist and vocalist Tim Rutili and percussionist Ben Massarella wound up exploring more fully with Califone.

But in between was 1995’s Bunny Get Paid, a record that has the hot flashes of Jimmywine and some of the cohesion of There’s a Star, but whose brilliance lies in the contrast between the two. Leadoff "Carpet of Horses" is built on a simple synth buzz, Rutili muttering non sequitors overtop and underneath. Sans segue, “Chain Chain Chain” would be pretty straightforward were not it for the squalls of fuzz saturation that permeate the latter half. The song doesn’t so much end but fade away, suggesting that, like its name, it could go on forever. “Rosewood, Wax, Voltz + Glitter” is the saltiest of the bunch, the band doing battle with its own proclivity for noise.

It’s at the record’s heart, however, where RRM finds itself. “Buttered” begins with Rutili plucking at rusty guitar nodes, exploring the spaces in between before they’re filled by strings. On “Idiot Son” guitar slides contrast with the song’s main thrust, emphasizing points of intersection. RRM may seem like they were operating in the dark at times, but that was also kind of the point.

For this deluxe reissue, a second disc of rarities and demos has been added, which includes a demo for “Chain” and the single version of “Idiot Son." However, it’s the band’s cover of Low’s “Words” that is the standout. The song bends naturally to RRM’s aesthetic as they in turn augment its slow-burn with sculpted feedback. “Mouse-ish (Dub Mix)” is less successful, a studio experiment gone awry, but “Carpet of Horses (Cleversly Version)” expands on the original version to the point of making it another, equally compelling, song altogether.

It’s easy to say that Red Red Meat deserve much more recognition than they will ever receive, but perhaps that would be giving the listening public too much credit. Instead, it’s probably better just to say that their idiosyncratic output deserves nothing other than to exist, always there for those who want it. And this reissue fortunately makes that so.
Stephen Slaybaugh

MP3: “Gauze”