The Radio Dept – Clinging To a Scheme (Labrador) 19/04/2010
April 20, 2010 by Dan Nelson
You would be hard pressed to find a more hardworking band than Sweden’s ‘The Radio Dept’. Since their inception in 1995 through to the present, they have consecutively produced release after release. It’s a wonder how their fanbase keeps track of them.
The band first came to acclaim in 2003 with their debut ‘Lesser Matters’ which quietly crept into the indie music fan’s consciousness with its lo-fi production values, punkish vocals and fuzzy pop soundscapes reminiscent of a more melodic ‘My Bloody Valentine’. The said album achieved the number 9 slot on NME’s albums of the year and arguably set a benchmark for what was to come. Surely as they evolved they could only get better.
Their third album builds on that template with a Balearic shoegaze like vibe running through it as well as their signature quiet dynamics. The new material could represent snapshots of a lost weekend and its hazy distorted soundscapes are perfect for a summer’s eve. The album starts promisingly with opening track ‘Domestic Scene’ and showcases their knack of crafting music with understated beauty using a soft vocal style and a slow building melody through to track 10, which perfectly utilises their lo-fi production style with flourishes of instrumentation to compliment their fuzz pop nuggets. Suffice to say it is a pleasant listening experience.
It is undeniable how talented the band are at creating their distorted soundscapes and combining their sugary vocals with addictive hooks, which are put to good use on the key tracks the magnificent ‘Never Follow Suit’ and the previous two singles ‘David’ and ‘Heaven’s on Fire’ (despite its spoken intro which doesn’t really fit into the vibe of the album). The problem is there are only a few songs which compliment the album, with the rest being filler that just meanders into MOR inoffensiveness – a large amount of the material could pass for dinner party music with its unadventurous bog standard melody. The other issue is that at times the vocals are too low in the mix, so whatever lyrical detail was supposed to entrance the listener is lost in the fuzz. This ultimately makes ‘Clinging To A Scheme’ a pleasant and absorbing listen, but not a memorable one and it could be said, a missed opportunity.