The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme (Labrador)

A vibe that is very much independent - artsy but not too hip, pop but not over the top...

Released May 27th, 2010 via Labrador / By Charlie Elwess
The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme (Labrador) From their scuzzy, static-infused debut through to their more fully realised, lush second album, Pet Grief , Sweden’s The Radio Dept. have always held on to their own sound and feel. Theirs is a vibe that is very much independent, artsy but not too hip, pop but not over the top and it has really served them well. The world has had to wait fours years for this album and, despite its ten tracks only clocking in at just under thirty five minutes, you don’t feel at all short-changed.

All the familiar elements from previous albums are still here: lo-fi programmed beats, warm bassy bits, distorted atmospheres, electronics and all the rest. Everything just feels more fully realised, mature and better assembled…like changing car from a Skoda to a Volkswagen, you know they’re each essentially the same as one another but the VW just feels more grown-up. Opening track ‘Domestic Scene’ throbs with vitality, subtle strings and Johan’s relieved vocal refrain of “we’re leaving just in time” serves to lift the mood of the record at the start. From here we’re treated to a sample from an interview present on the All Tomorrow’s Parties film about the idea that capitalism an big business is hi-jacking youth culture before being blasted with the out-and-out pop of ‘Heaven’s On Fire’. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition.

You can’t always decipher the lyrics in The Radio Dept’s work due to their preferred style of effecting Johan’s voice coupled with the noise of everything else going on in their tracks. This isn’t particularly a problem, it’s usually enough just lose yourself in the song, but there are a couple of places on the album where the constant hazy quality of the sound can grate a little such as in ‘Memory Loss’. Indeed songs like ‘David’ can at first sound a little bit like a shit version of the Pet Shop Boys, but on repeated listen everything comes into shaper focus, it’s wonderful and you wonder why you ever doubted it.

With this album The Radio Dept. have deliberately furthered themselves and stretched their sound. There are more electronics, beats, samples and bleeps sure, but it is still a work that is uniquely theirs and benefits repeated listen despite not always being immediate. Overall this is an admirable, engaging and intelligent album.