Red Orkestra After the Wars

Taking their name from a Soviet spy ring that managed to infiltrate Nazi-occupied Europe, the Red Orkestra is a new Toronto band featuring some veterans from the scene. Bringing together Johnny Charmer (formally of the Charmers), Neil Leyton (ex-Conscience Pilate), Devin Stoneham (ex- Madame Tussaud) and Ian Woodward (from the Pariahs), they not surprisingly sound like a band who’ve been playing together for many, many years. Like their ’40s namesakes, the band document the ongoing struggles and conflict, both social and private, that we all face. That translates into songs that Charmer calls "urban folk,” and while they are somewhat earnest, they don’t end up sounding contrived or preachy. They manage to avoid sounding too much like his admitted influences such as Billy Bragg and the Smiths, ending up closer in spirit to Gordon Lightfoot. That might be in part due to the overwhelming presence of the acoustic guitar, but Charmer’s warm vocals help to make each and every song inviting. After the Wars is a pleasant album that sneaks up quietly on the listener, but its stealthy approach is almost too subtle. Perseverance will pay off though. (Fading Ways)