The Radio Dept. are an odd band. This fact is immediately evident on the opening track of their 2010 release, Clinging To A Scheme
. The opener, "Domestic Scene" is monstrously textured and a little erratic but it's actually a fairly solid primer for the rest of the album. Clinging To A Scheme
is an album about finding melody in static.
Shoegaze is one of those labels that gets strapped on to a lot of projects and it's not always accurate. The Radio Dept. though, does a pretty decent job of making an outline of what shoegaze would sound like in the twenty-first century. The fuzz and the layers of melody are there, it's missing a bit of the energy, but Clinging To A Scheme
doesn't really seem concerned about energy.
Probably the most interesting thing, though, about Clinging To A Scheme
is that it's one of the first albums to take the qualities of "garageband music" (not garage band music) and find out what and how one would turn it into an actual production style, like lo-fi or sound-on-tape. It's mostly done against a drum machine spine and sounds like it was put together on a laptop in a living room, which doesn't make the worst sounding aesthetic. And where most sound lazy (Owl City, Ke$ha, the list goes on...) The Radio Dept. pulls it off.
Track 6, "The Video Dept" is where the album becomes a little less canned and the band opens up there songs a bit more. If the first half was all quiet electronica pieces, the second half switches into a strange but really interesting mix of Tom Petty and Oasis. There's a fuzz and a roughness, but the simple, cutting melody of the first half of Clinging To A Scheme
really gets to move a bit and play. It's almost a shame the whole album wasn't as loose.
Closing the album, "You Stopped Making Sense" is a really neat bookend to where "Domestic Scene" started. The closer has all the frenzy of the second half of the album but wraps it all up in the end.
Clinging To A Scheme
is a strong effort if only because it really explores what The Radio Dept. is capable of. It explores the dual nature they seem to have, half wanting quiet diary entry melody collages and half wanting spunky thumping rock songs. As for the listeners, it seems like they're content with giving us the option of which Radio Dept. we'd like to listen to.-ryan broderick
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MP3: "Heaven's On Fire" (Clinging To A Scheme)
The Radio Dept. on Myspace