Album Reviews

The Radio Dept – Lesser Matters

(XL) UK release date: 30 August 2004

The Radio Dept - Lesser Matters Of late the Scandinavian music scene has exploded in the UK and is now firmly flying high. The Hives, The Raveonettes and Röyksopp are but three that have made it, but in The Radio Dept comes another challenger.

Already the darlings of their home, Sweden, and bolstered by the confidence this have given them, The Radio Dept are now looking to export their lo-fi indie sound and take on the world with guitars, an electric drumkit, and a lot of cool as their arsenal.

The short introduction, Too Soon, serves as an appetiser, something to reset the emotions of anyone who listens in preparation for what follows – a lo-fi offering in worship to the god of melody. Too Soon quickly bows in subservience to second single, and one of the tracks of the album, Where Damage Isn’t Already Done, which rattles along with an eager rhythm and without a care in the world, with a loveable guitar riff and without “good” production.

The song and indeed the whole album is purposely under-produced, divorced from the glossy production of someone like indie counterparts, Delays. The result sounds lovely, and very cool, clearly suiting the band. At some points of the album it sounds as if the delicate uncurling melodies are struggling for energy to breakthrough the lazy atmosphere created by The Radio Dept.

The third track, Keen On Boys, sounds like Sonic Youth on weed before being fortified by a danceable disco bassline, adding excitement to a song which in its closing stages sounds as if its being given the once over by the Royksopp boys.

By the end of the first single, Why Won’t You Talk About It?, the more negative points of Lesser Matters are flashing their headlights through the haze of tranquillity. For starters, the song is average, featuring seemingly random guitar feedback which is nothing but annoying.

What’s more, their songs all begin pointing towards The Raveonettes. Not that this is a massive problem, but the thought that these chaps from Sweden are treading the same path to stardom is one that devalues the beauty of Lesser Matters.

The album briefly redeems itself before faltering again, but is resurrected by Slotter #2, a beautiful, melodically layered instrumental from which point there is no looking back. When Johan Duncanson’s vocals rejoin the album on 1995, absence has made the heart grow fonder, nay, fall in love actually. Only now is it embarrassingly clear that his subtle, ice cool, breathy voice is beautiful, and very important to The Radio Dept.

The equally beautiful voice of old school friend and former member Elin Almered joins on Strange Things Will Happen. Her voice is delicate and fragile, and a perfect marriage with Duncanson’s. Strange Things Will Happen is simply a brilliant song.

Lesser Matters is the strongest shy and delicate record in a while. Unfortunately it is a little let down by a lack of variation and creative breakdown at the midpoint, but let’s not beat around the bush – The Radio Dept are cool and deserve to be as successful as any other Scandinavian export. Curl up and fall in love with them.

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More on The Radio Dept
The Radio Dept – Running Out Of Love
The Radio Dept @ Bush Hall, London
The Radio Dept – Clinging To A Scheme
The Radio Dept – Lesser Matters