Album Review: It’s Fine by Red Light Cameras
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
By August Edwards
Brevity and backbone illuminate the brutal truth in Red Light Camera’s new album It’s Fine. The album will be available to stream everywhere on Friday, March 18th.
Red Light Cameras are a garage pop band with blue-ribbon strength. It’s Fine is fresh to their sound; it’s sparser, which heightens their impact. One salient distinction is the striking dominance of the bass, which has rocketed their overall sound into confident terrain. The band has always been fun, but the album has a clean boldness from barebones punk spirit.
It’s Fine has been in the works since 2019; the pandemic brought on a rerecording and lineup changes. So much has happened that there’s an undeniable veil of electricity around the release. The iteration of RLC on the album is Amanda Machon (vocals), Barney Lopez (bass), Mag Kim (guitar), and Joe Gonzalez (drums).
As usual, livewire Machon owns “Damn” with her resplendent—and at times, cutthroat—vocal style. “Damn” embodies the overarching theme of It’s Fine. The track is aggressive but secure, arguably crass with a debonair swagger. At the end of the day, it’s about being true to yourself and rocking out to your own tune. The band convinces you not to give a damn, thus winning your trust for the tracks to follow.
After “Damn” is a quick succession of “screw you” tunes. I got lost in the album's attitude—encouraged by an easy pulse, I followed Machon along and found my own resilience. However, listeners quickly learn that not giving a damn comes with particular yet certain consequences.
It’s Fine is deviously forceful. It tricks you into finding liberation and then it knocks you on your ass in the funniest of ways. I think the album’s main goal is to force the listener to come to terms with their oneness, which is not an easy task. We each have a high-tech, built-in repellent for self-actualization. It’s Fine is an album that could function as a tool for identity. But before we get knocked down, we're magnificently built up.
Lopez plunks down a juicy bassline to open “Better Off,” emphasizing the band’s decidedly grunge sting. The song is about coming alive around someone else while knowing you’re better off alone. “Hope I’m Wrong” explores suspicions of unfaithfulness in a relationship, but the tone is so happy-go-lucky that we know our inner peace is going to get us through. The reality this song lives in is one that I personally strive to experience—Machon sings an example of tenacity during testing times.
The surf rock tune “Little Sorry” playfully wrestles with accountability while acknowledging a burgeoning out-of-control pattern; “It’s okay, I think I’ll be fine / I’m just kind of going out of my mind.” There’s an admission of needing to be saved from oneself, and while the speaker weakly tries to shift blame onto the stars, we see indication of personal growth.
Sometimes it’s easy to think of your fucked-up self as someone else. I didn’t do that—you did that. You messed up my life. You alienated me. You pushed them away. Have you found yourself saying to someone you love, “That wasn’t really me!” when you irrevocably mess up? I have. I found that the final track on It’s Fine brings to life this struggle.
“Hot Mess” is the rerecord of “Ooh Hot Mess” from their 2011 albums Secret EP and later their debut self-titled. For this recording, Red Light Cameras slowed this song down to ramp up the tension, enhancing it to an unyielding march. The track takes time to cook because it’s a wakeup song, and an effective one at that. I could listen to Machon yell at me all day—“You may not think that you’re screamin’ / but you’re standing far, far, far too close to my face when you’re talkin’ to me.” And then the vocal impact nearing the four minute mark is so spine-chilling and ferocious that even noting it here feels like an odd sort of spoiler.
What a severe way to end the album. It’s been over ten years since the song was originally recorded, which in the grand scheme of things is not a long time, but I think it’s long enough to see what could stand the test of time. What specifically makes “Hot Mess” so evergreen?
The truth is, I don’t know if in the lyrics Machon is addressing and accusing someone else, or herself. My gut tells me the song is a look inward. There’s an intensity to “Hot Mess” that we don’t see in the other songs. It’s scary. There’s a sense of a real fuckedupness.
The beginning of the album isn’t cavalier, by any means—it takes charge—but every song asks a silent “so what?” by brushing off schmucks to make room for self-love. When we trash the idea of "love" and start making excuses for ourselves instead, how ugly can it get? And do we deserve a chance to turn it around?
Red Light Cameras have seen a lot of change over these past few years. “Change is not always easy to go through—frankly, it sucks sometimes. It sends you all over the place causing all kinds of ups and downs, and the only way through is to just grow with it. When the clouds lift in the end, its fine. Be gentle with yourself, it's fine,” Machon said when asked what she'd like the audience to glean from the album.
The album name itself can mean so many different things. “Originally, we were going to call the album Flora, following the idea of growing through the last few years. As we neared the end of our recording process, I felt Flora seemed too pretty, and this album isn’t ‘pretty,’” Machon continued. “I threw around the idea of calling the album It’s Fine with mixed reviews, but in the end, I liked that each person I told interpreted the meaning behind it in their own way. It’s Fine can mean so many things depending how you say it, and that’s why I like it. It can be a good thing, or it can be as loaded as your significant other saying “it's fine,” and clearly, it’s not. It can be said after getting through something, we made it through the worst and it's fine. If you don’t like it, well, it’s fine.”
Who do we become when we’re fed up? When we stop at nothing to find the truth? When we’re just tired of always coming back to ourselves? The road to empowerment may be messy, but it's fine—first we just have to pick ourselves up when we're at our lowest.