Of all the poorly titled genres in music, the “progressive ___” has to be up there as one of the most ironic. At its best, it's a signifier of creative instrumentation, arrangements, concepts and/or vocals - basically, anything that pushes rock 'n’ roll into new directions. All too often, however, it’s more of a warning label indicating overlong songs, more solos than a Joe Satriani album and the cheesiest vocals imaginable.
So thank God for The Red Handed, which sidesteps all of those awful genre cliches with ease and deliver a full-length that’s both intelligent and easy to listen to. Hailing from Muskegon and active since 2009, these five dudes have really put their best foot forward with their album, Shell Shocked.
A loose concept album apparently about a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (seriously), Shell Shocked combines the lofty aspirations and knotty compositions of prog with the earnestness and accessibility of indie rock: the playing is competent yet not overblown, the vocals are clean and simple (think Between the Buried and Me, not Dream Theater), and the songs are concise and compact, yet packed with enough detours to keep all the music nerds happy.
This one is a tough pick since the album is so seamless and consistent, but “Alleycat Blues” is a real standout. The album is available on their Bandcamp page for $10.