Thursday, April 15th, 2010
A Token Of Gratitude
Review of The Radio Dept.’s Clinging To A Scheme
Max WeilandFor so long has Clinging To A Scheme, the third album from Sweden’s The Radio Dept, been promised and not delivered that it’s become something of a myth – if someone were to tell me that when it was finally to be released unto the world that it would be delivered by Axl Rose and Kevin Shields riding unicorns, I’d probably believe it.
But it finally arrives in stores next week, and fans who’ve been waiting for upwards of four years for another Radio Dept record will find that it… is another Radio Dept record. The trio haven’t used the time away to reinvent themselves or their sound, but with only two records to their names over twelve years of existence, you can hardly accuse them of having fallen into a holding pattern or phoning it in. They’ve simply adhering to the template laid out in their two masterpieces so far, Lesser Matters and Pet Grief, and written (and discarded and rewritten) songs until coming up with a collection they were happy with, and this is how long its taken. While it’s true that wrapping pop songs built on strings and electronics in fuzzy blankets of sound isn’t unique in and of itself, very few have managed to strike as perfect a balance between shimmer and static as The Radio Dept, and that’s even before you factor in their distinctly Scandinavian melancholy.
Within the boundaries of what makes a Radio Dept album, however, there are some adjustments from past works. Sonically, it largely retains the cleanliness of Pet Grief but some of the rough edges of Lesser Matters has crept back into the mix – welcomely, I might add – creating a blended texture that’s quantitatively different from but more quintessentially characteristic than anything they’ve done before. The mood of Clinging is also lighter, with a handful of genuinely bouncy numbers that would probably have felt out of place on the beautifully downbeat Pet Grief, but overall it moves at the pace of a thoughtful stroll and the vibe is that of someone trying their best to have a good time and be happy and not really succeeding. And it’s that contrast and combination of smiling whilst frowning that’s the source of much of The Radio Dept’s magic, a magic which is present in abundance on Clinging To A Scheme. Yes, it sounds just like The Radio Dept, but that’s all we ever asked for.
Penny Black talks to frontman Johan Duncanson about the long road to the record and what lies ahead for the band.
Spin talks to Stephen Malkmus on how the Pavement reunion came to be while North County Times chats with rhythm section Bob Nastanovich and Mark Ibold. Said reunion rolls into the Toronto Islands on June 19.