Chicago has a reputation for being a tough town. A Midwestern ethic infused (or grew from) this city of power and corruption, once the center of the nation's meat packing industry, where immigrant labor was used to make the machine run. "(Chicago is) the only major city in the country where you can easily buy your way out of a murder rap," the great Chicago writer Nelson Algren once declared.
It seems appropriate that the quartet Red Red Meat, led by guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Tim Rutili, arrived at its name. Pure Chicago. Regrouping in the early 1990s after the death of original bassist Glynis Johnson, Red Red Meat became an integral part of the Chicago-based industrial sound, along with Steve Albini (and his band Big Black), Tortoise and Jesus Lizard, among others. These bands adopted an aesthetic to (nearly) subvert song with feedback, over-modulated, oddly treated vocals and an overall dirty sound. And no one clearly demonstrated this as well as Red Red Meat.
After minimizing their Stones, Velvet and Faces influences, as exemplified on their 1993 Sub Pop debut, Jimmywine Majestic, Red Red Meat delivered Bunny Gets Paid in 1995. It became a riddled landmark, filled with beautiful, nearly fragile songs beneath layers of dense, metallic percussion and textures from home-made effects boxes, found percussive objects, etc. Rutili, along with bandmates Brian Deck (drums, piano), Tim Hurley (bass, guitar, piano) and Ben Massarella (percussion), bridged folk, blues and Americana with a literally urban backdrop -- noisy, dirty and technologically machine-like. Overall, Bunny Gets Paid slowly pummels the listener.
From the buzzing guitar strings and Rutili's anguished vocals in the opening track, "Carpet of Horses" to the slow-burning rocker "Chain Chain" to the delicate beauty of "Gauze," this "industrial sound" is evident. It is also clear, even after its initial release over a dozen years ago, that Bunny Gets Paid remains a fresh, startling and original work. There's a tension that exists throughout the record that everything is careening awfully close to the edge, threatening to come undone. And after years of finding the out-of-print release only in the used bins, Sub Pop has released a deluxe reissue -- the remastered original accompanied by a bonus disc of unreleased songs and early or demo versions from the same time period.
Songs such as "Oxtail" and the album's final song, "There's Always Tomorrow," a cover of the song from the television claymation special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, one could easily see how the music would transition into Califone, a band that was formed by Rutili and Massarella after Red Red Meat dissolved in 1997. Bunny Gets Paid serves as a monumental stepping stone to the more focused, yet compelling, formation of Califone, while offering a second opportunity to listen to the vibrancy of the band unknowingly coming together for a moment of brilliance.