Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Radio Dept.: Clinging to a Scheme

The Radio Dept. are a Swedish dream pop quintet that re-emerged in 1988, three years after a split between founders Elin Almered and Johan Duncanson. Duncanson brought four new members to the group, creating three albums and counting, with Clinging to a Scheme the latest, and possibly greatest yet. Their sound is one of  indie pop, spit shined with a shoegaze rag. There are glimpses of experimentation in this summery care-free record,  with the ten tracks rolling in the grass and rocking along, contentedly.
     The cover art, though obviously portraying drug use, symbolises the joyful times that the modern era ushered out. The vibes that surface during this album are ones of happiness, though these to me are the effects of the drug. Under the sound lie the stresses and pressures that the group are trying to suppress, and although they do it well, these thoughts seep through, creating a wonderful attitude and atmosphere to the music. I feel as though The Radio Dept have previously tried to retain their care-free lifestyle but, knowing their efforts were futile, have accepted the fact and are trying to leave with good grace, high and happy. Variety? These guys never lost my attention, so I guess that's a pass. Brilliance? This band serves it out in bucket loads. I just love them!
     The first track, 'Domestic Scene', is one of my favourites. Though it is very uplifting, it holds a solemnity in the vocals and simple guitar and drums that struck me as simply fantastic. There is something about Duncanson's voice that strikes a chord with me as well. The way he singing is soothing, as it seems almost effortless. This feeling rubs off on the listener, making for a very pleasant experience. The song glides into the next, which starts with a dialogue that epitomises the ideas that this record is trying to put across.
     'This Time Around' is my favourite track from this wonderful selection of ten. A confident drum beat introduces a melody that is joined by more singing that works wonderfully. When the vocals break into higher notes, the predicted climax is offset with lower notes that work just as well, adding contrast and even more personality to the list of accolades the album already has. The next track has a monologue through the middle that I can't seem to see place for. I could easily see it left out, and not missed, but as a complaint this one does nothing to dirty the shine of the record.
     The sixth number, 'The Video Dept', is most definitely the song from which mentions of shoegaze are drawn. The sound though, is much more than simply indistinguishable lyrics smothered in guitar. The title itself, matched with the shoegaze element, is making a point. This band for me, wants to stay very much in the past, wallowing in the simple life. They are making a stab against video, stubborn in their perhaps backwards ways. I personally love this, and seeing as not many others songs sound quite the same, I'm all for this section of the album. The only other song that strikes the same kind of feel is 'Four Months in the Shade'.
     'You Stopped Making Sense' finishes the record on a flying high, leaving us with a sense of closure that reveals itself through the long, drawn note at the very end. As a conclusion, if you're a fan of pop rock, and want to reminisce, laughing and playing in the blurred memories of summers gone by, then grab this record and treasure it. I know I'm going to! Some of the best pop I've heard, I'm sure anyone with a heart will love it!