Despite having been together, in one incarnation or another, since the mid-’90s, this – surprisingly – is only the third album proper by the well-respected outfit from Lund, The Radio Dept.
The current and established line-up is founder member Johan Duncanson on guitar and vocals, longtime collaborator Martin Carlberg on guitar and Daniel Tj�der on keyboards.� With it currently being something of a musical and critical golden age for all things Swedish, these veterans would seem well-placed to reassert their prominence among their compatriots.
One thing at which The Radio Dept have always been expert is the creation of interesting contrasts by using layers and textures in their music.� This is in evidence once again here, and can be found in the way that several different elements are expertly juxtaposed within and between songs.
Their basic template of indie-pop is found in Domestic Scene’s homely guitars and The Video Dept’s jangle.� They interpose an occasional spoken sample or excerpt: in Never Follow Suit a graffiti artist or tagger talks about his motives and explains how he feels when he spots his work on trains; Heaven’s On Fire combines its Wannadies pop-jangle with a rebellious call to arms: “I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture!”, an unnamed rabble-rouser proclaims.
In other places an unusual synth sound might stand out; or found sounds appear, such as the buzz of insects or chirp or crickets that can be heard on Memory Loss.� A harp arpeggio, charmingly, is used just once on forthcoming single David.
It can prove difficult to make out the subject matter. Much of the time singer Johan Duncanson’s vocal is quite low in the mix and takes on a disengaged, distant quality. This is particularly in evidence on (nicely named track) The Video Dept.� At other times he can sound drowsy, sad, wistful.� The few cues that can be taken from snippets of discernable lyric seem to also reflect these moods: “All the things we tried for / They’re gone”, from This Time Around; or “I sleep for 20 years” from David; or “easy come, easy go”, singing of a lost love in A Token Of Gratitude.
The lone instrumental – Four Months In The Shade – has a darker, fuller, more dramatic edge.� Joy Division-esque and abrasive, this probably figures as one of the album’s best tracks.� Others of particular merit include Heaven’s On Fire which, after the rabble-rousing excerpt, turns into a charming perky pop song of the kind that the Scandinavians just seem to do so well; A Token Of Gratitude (more jangle, but with a long, atmospheric lead-off); and the synth-y David.
This is, though, an album that is best considered as a whole.� Tracks blend from one into the other, and the balance of styles and sounds has clearly been worked out so that they span the album as a complete entity.� Emerging at the end, the listener has a real sense of having been immersed in something coherent and whole over the course of the 10 tracks; even if at the same time – dreamlike – there may well be no such clear sense of what it all might have meant.