Has it really been four years? Yes. In fact, when you’re waiting for a follow up to an album like The Radio Dept‘s Pet Grief, seconds feel like minutes, minutes feel like hours and, well, you get the idea.
On Pet Grief, The Radio Dept. replaced the fuzzy guitars that characterised their debut with synths and created a subtle, brooding album which brings to mind dark, urban landscapes.
I’ve never really understood the indie-pop tag that is often attached to The Radio Dept. but, on Clinging To A Scheme, all of a sudden that glove is becoming a much better fit.
From the opening bars of ‘Domestic Scene’, the jangly chime of dual guitars matched by some four-to-the-floor bass and Johan Duncanson’s vocal – which manages to be full of melody whilst also sounding wholly monotonic – there’s already evidence of a spring in The Radio Dept.’s step, an optimism which, while it wasn’t necessarily lacking, wasn’t present in their sophomore effort of four years ago. The last chords fade to bring in a sample which marks the coming of what, for me, is the single of the year – a cocktail of sunshine and adrenaline injected directly into your ear canal. The bouncy, fizzy keyboard line of ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ is matched by a slick guitar riff, hazy vocals and brass lines where you just know whoever’s playing is simultaneously cutting the fuck out of some rug. So yeah, two tracks in, and it’s all thumbs up so far.
This new sunny disposition is carried throughout Clinging To A Scheme. ‘This Time Around’ is all machine-gunning drums over shimmering beds of guitar, and ‘The Video Dept.’ (see what they’ve done there) is more up-tempo, fuzzy jangle with white-noise filtered vocals buried deep into the mix. Elsewhere the sanguine mood is carried of with a more patient delivery – not all summer soundtracks having to follow the Dodgy school of songwriting. Bringing to mind hot and lazy afternoons, ‘Never Follow Suit’ hits us with dancehall keys and dubby, dubby bass and ‘A Token Of Gratitude’ is a slice of chillwave/glo-fi (delete as you see fit), warm with ambient textures of backwards guitars and soft, pulsing synths. Keeping this theme going are ‘Memory loss’, which is reminiscent of Phoenix’s more down-tempo moments, ‘David’ and album closer ‘You Stopped Making Sense’.
Sticking out somewhat strangely in the record is ‘Four Months In The Shade’, a short, industrial, frantic instrumental which, sounding like a watered down Fuck Buttons, is an odd inclusion here. Although not necessarily a poor track in itself, it feels out of place. Personally I’ve rather a short but perfectly formed nine track album.
Even with this thorn in its side, it’s hard for it to detract from the warmth and tenderness The Radio Dept. have delivered on Clinging To A Scheme. At times it’s infectious, at others its sedating – in a good way, obviously. It’s small,almost perfectly formed and is worthy of that oft-used “soundtrack of the summer” tag. It’s been a long four years but, if it takes them as long to write a follow up as accomplished at this, it’ll certainly be worth the wait.