What the world needs now, is love sweet love. So sang Burt Bacharach way back when. Sadly despite the somewhat cheesy nature of the song there’s not a savoury version, and it’s best to only have a bit of sweet love in case you get a case of passionate diabetes. Written in 1965, a period when love was pretty much everywhere thanks to The Beatles and flower power, the song is perhaps needed more now than ever.
In an age where it is possible for a racist, misogynistic, morally bankrupt deviant to hold the highest office in he United States, it is clear that there’s just not enough love in the world. If anything there’s too much hate. Whilst it’s nice to lean on the music of the past for support, what we actually need, beyond love, is some real protest music written now, that reflects our times and inspires action.
The rise of the right is not just occurring in the USA or the UK, it’s a problem that is becoming more visible in numerous countries. The Radio Dept’s latest album is a reaction to the political situation around the world, but more specifically in Sweden, their home country. The far-right group Sweden Democrats is gaining momentum and dividing the country. Sooner or later, there will be consequences, and the album cover pulls no punches in suggesting which way things might go. Featuring a soldier with gun on her back staring into a taped up mirror, the reflection shows a shattered existence but the soldier’s stare is determined. There’s a battle coming, it seems to suggest. Which side are you on? As if impending political conflict weren’t enough, the band has been in dispute with their label Labrador too and this situation entwines with the central themes of the album.
Opening up with Sloboda Narodu (which translates as “Freedom To The People”), The Radio Dept quickly get to work putting their cards on their table. A drum line cribbed from Sympathy From The Devil taps into the revolutionary roots of rock history, marrying it to a guitar and synth line that The Lightning Seeds would be happy with is an odd choice but it works in that it doesn’t bombard sonically, allowing Johan Duncanson’s call for “Freedom Now” to resonate.
A critique of Sweden’s arms business in the shape of Swedish Guns follows. If all this already sounds too heavy, it should be pointed out that whilst the political content of these songs is deadly serious, The Radio Dept have a canny way of making blissed out club tunes that are perfect pop nuggets. Swedish Guns for example marries dub heavy bass to sleepy vocals and honking club synths whilst We Got Game sounds like early Pet Shop Boys but does finds time to suggest that it might not be very nice to spoon with a racist goon. Just as some of the band’s sentiments might miss the mark, they often get it right.
Occupied finds the band at their most oppressive and impressive as Duncanson explores the notion of retribution against a backdrop of icy cold synths and the seething threat of the Twin Peaks soundtrack. It’s the point at which the band sounds most focused and despite being over 7 minutes long, there’s not an ounce of fat on it. This is death-sentence disco. Committed To The Cause meanwhile takes baggy swagger of The Stone Roses and funnels it into an anthem of defiance, something The Stone Roses have been incapable of doing since their heyday.
Perhaps the most effective and emotional track on the album comes in the form of the title track, which dispenses with lyrics altogether. It’s a rather minimal piece; with its heartbeat like pulse combining with distress signal keyboard and delicate keyboard motif sounding like a last chance communique of hope being sent out across a desolate and cold landscape.
Yet there is hope throughout Running Out Of Love as an album, after all this is a record that has finally seen the light of day after a bitter dispute between the band and their label. That something so beautiful and politically charged can emerge from the embers of conflict can only be a positive thing.