Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A gig in Brooklyn - The Radio Dept.

Halfway through the show, with many, many Big House Red glasses of wine already drunk, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, “Pulling our weight, pulling our weight!” And the song came on. Or maybe it was a different one. I probably could not really tell at this point. But the energy was right, and the crowd was feeling The Radio Dept. Sometimes, a rock show can be fairly simple and just plain fun. This was one of those days.
I discovered this band from Sweden from the automated e-mails that I get from Amie Street. The new album,” Lesser Matters” was released in the States pretty recently, and I checked out their music in Rhapsody. At first, I was not feeling the retro distortion, the simple chords, and the unintelligible Thom Yorke-ish vocals. But after listening to a few songs, I realized this band was worth the time. Their sound is not crisp. It is messy, distorted, with too much gain in the amps at times (or so it seems), and with plenty of reverb too. A lot of electronic sounds, reminiscent of 80’s bands, and of synthesizer pre-programmed sounds. It was pretty cool. All this mess seemed to condense in a very interesting, unique, mellow and nostalgic sound. The vocals, somewhat in the background, (the words hard to understand, dreamy, slightly dark, depressive in a 90’s British rock kind of way) have this very interesting quality to them. They seem to come from a back room, and not from the speakers in front of me. After listening to a few of their albums, I quickly searched online, they were playing one single show in NY, (and probably in the U.S.), at the Bell House in Brooklyn. The Bell House is a cool spot in Gowanus, in the middle of nowhere. It is an empty warehouse with a stage and a bar. But really, what else do you need but a stage and a bar?
Of the bands that opened up the show, my kudos go to The Secret History. The two female vocalists really make their sound. The song “It’s not the end of the world, Jonah” was their highlight. Nice, simple and catchy rock. They played a good set. All the other bands were not as impressive, but not bad at all. I was actually surprised that their sound was noticeably different than the headliners.
The Radio Dept. seems like a serious band, trying to make serious sound. Their songs seem deceptively simple, their lyrics are scarce, but have a certain poetic and fresh quality to them. Check out the lyrics to the dreamy, and distorted “Where damage isn’t already done”:

You are raining in
I can't escape that feeling
You're dripping into the buckets I have placed
Where damage isn't already done

I saw you on bus 15
Heading north to take the train
Everyone looks the same
Still we have different names

It is a song that does not seem to say much, but for whatever reason, the music makes this lyrical austerity very touching, and it combines very well. I think the music, fast-paced, but mellow really gives this song a good vibe. I also like their “Keen on Boys” (aaah, yeah, I know, but really, it’s a good song), and of course, “Pulling our weight” from my crazy yelling rant during the concert. Haha. I think what I most like about this band is this particular feeling of nostalgia that it bring upon me. Like in this song “1995”:

1995 is cutting classes
It's sitting over coffees talking indie treats
It's the mere sensation of being the first one that you see
When morning opens up the skies
You see me when daylight opens up your eyes

Alright, so yes, in 1995, I was not even thinking of cutting classes…but I did later on, and these songs make me remember some good times of coffees, and dead afternoons, rainy days in fall or spring, a happy loneliness, where, love appears as this mirage, and it seemed that it could be found, and:

And even in time
We’ll give in to crime
We’ll be on the line
Pulling our weight.

The Radio Dept. really pulled their weight.

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