Review : The Radio Dept - Clinging To A Scheme
AllmusicThe run-up to the release of the Radio Dept.’s third album, Clinging to a Scheme, seemed endless by the time it finally came out in the spring of 2010. It seemed that every few months a release date was announced and then passed, with only a couple singles to show for the band’s efforts. When it did appear, it was clear that anyone hoping for a return to the fuzzy, lo-fi sound of their debut record Lesser Matters may be disappointed, as the band has unloaded almost all the aspects of the shoegaze attack that characterized their first recordings. Instead, they’ve followed the direction of Pet Grief and have taken another step in the direction toward the Pet Shop Boys. That is to say, they are more informed by synth pop and less by guitar rock. This further refining and synthing of their approach doesn’t mean they’ve cleaned up and become all slick though, the trio still make sure to bathe the sound in bucketfuls of reverb, and Johan Duncanson’s voice is treated with all kinds of effects, often giving him the sound of a guy at the end of a hallway singing through a paper towel roll. It’s a time-honored trick of taking pretty pop songs and roughing them up, and the group work it like old pros here. While songs like "A Token of Gratitude" or "You Stopped Making Sense" would sound great on just acoustic guitars or piano, giving them some gritty noise and fuzzy atmosphere manages to impart an extra boost of emotional power that makes the album really stick. Just as importantly, the band have written what might be their best batch of songs for Clinging, with almost every song sounding like it could be a single. The two songs that were chosen as singles are the best of the lot, each feeling like instant classics. "David"’s cheesy synths, stately beats, and the chamber pop-lovely arrangement mesh perfectly with the breathtaking vocal melody, "Heaven’s on Fire" bursts out of the speakers in a blast of happy keys, peppy guitars, and a beat straight out of Madchester. It’s a dramatic one-two punch that almost serves to overshadow the rest of the record on first listen. Further spins reveal the charms of the non-single tracks, and the whole thing ends up being one of the best examples of all the things that help make Swedish pop so magical. For once, all the pre-release hype and anticipation has been justified; the Radio Dept. have delivered the best work of their career....full text
BbcIt’s been a head-scratchingly long time since we last heard from The Radio Dept. – four get-a-bloody-move-on years to be exact And despite being together in one form or another since the mid-90s, the group has only put out three records, including this one. Doesn’t usually bode well, does it? But as a return, and a hugely anticipated one at that, Clinging to a Scheme quickly proves that we’re safe as ever in the Swedish outfit’s slow-to-create, yet intent-on-perfection hands.
Claiming to be influenced by “minimalist post-punk, krautrock, repetitive motorik beat (eh?) and ambient noise” for this release, we’re not surprised to find there’s a whole world of oddness going on in these 10 hazy swooshscapes, as speech samples intermittently burst in on layers and layers of intricate guitar lines, pianos, strings, horns, drum machines and flutes. When summed up like that the record sounds cluttered, but it’s far from it: The Radio Dept. have cleverly managed to conjure up music with a thoroughly minimal feel, despite this hive of activity instrumentation-wise. ...full text
DrownedinsoundIt’s been a weird four years for The Radio Dept since releasing their brilliant second album Pet Grief in 2006. That record was awash with lush, woozy textures – proto-chillwave if you will - but unlike the class of 2009, Radio Dept had the songs to back up their hazy soundscapes too. Since then the band has dropped off the radar, with only phantom album release-dates and a couple of disappointing singles to their name. But just when their moment seems to have passed the Dept re-opens with Clinging To A Scheme.
Four years is smoothed into nothing with opener ‘Domestic Scene’, which picks up where they left off, all low-key shoegazey textures and Strokes-y vocals. There’s no fanfare, no triumphant comeback sound – the big statements are left to samples, like the one that opens ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ – "I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture". It voices the most interesting aspect of underground music in 2010, especially scenes like chillwave: the reigniting of DIY culture, with the bedroom the studio again, the cassette in vogue – a complete rejection of mainstream industry....full text
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