Sunday, October 16, 2016

Album Review: The Radio Dept. - Running Out of Love (2016)

One of the first posts on this blog, dating back to March 2011, was a review for an album called Clinging To A Scheme by Swedish indie pop merchants The Radio Dept. I wound up loving that album, and I wanted to let the world know a little bit about it. Of course, at that time, everythingsgonegreen’s “world” or readership consisted of myself and very occasionally, my Mum, so letting “the world know about it” is a very subjective way of putting it. The blog’s readership has at least doubled since then to now include extended family members and the odd (very odd) stalker. But the point remains – Clinging To A Scheme was one of my most loved albums of that time, and it probably rivalled The National’s High Violet as my favourite release of 2010, even if not very many people seemed to be aware of it.

Fast forward a handful of years and it’s been a long time between albums for The Radio Dept., but they’re back in 2016 with another quite beautifully crafted full-length work called Running Out of Love, the band’s fourth album overall, and quite possibly one of the best “contractual obligation” albums ever made. You see, one of the reasons for the long break between albums, has been the band’s protracted, ultimately unsuccessful, legal dispute with its label, Labrador Records. From all accounts, this work will be the final release on Labrador for The Radio Dept.

But they got there in the end, and if there was a sunnier disposition and hints at a wider optimism on past releases, then Running Out of Love has a degree of sadness and weary resignation about it. This album is essentially a bittersweet, outwardly bright, inwardly morbid, set of tunes that deal with much darker subject matter this time out – from global politics and the arms trade, to societal violence, racism, and other not so joyous developments rather reflecting the present age of mankind – see the complete folly and real horror of the seemingly endless current US presidential campaign(s) for any proof, if it was needed, that things are taking a (right) turn for the worse, or even entering the realm of the utterly surreal on a global level.

Yet somehow The Radio Dept. manage to dress up these otherwise ominous looking clouds with a distinctly silver lining – the message is stark and worrying, but the delivery hints at a certain level of discretionary or voluntary denial. In other words: sure, this is serious stuff, but hey, let’s just dance like it’s 1990 again, and to hell with any of the rest of it. And while the band retain all of the key elements of prototype indie pop – jangly guitars, a hushed shoegaze-type approach to vocals, and dreamy synth-pop textures – there’s also a massive nod to the all pervasive influence of disco, house, and Detroit techno on some of these tracks. In fact, one key tune on the album, ‘We Got Game’, blatantly apes the inescapable dancefloor rhythms of Inner City’s ‘Good Life’, without so much as a hint of shame, nor irony. Well, okay, perhaps there’s a touch of irony there, but The Radio Dept. are fairly nonchalant and carefree about it all.

Whatever else there is, there’s a genuine depth to Running Out of Love which is almost impossible to ignore. It makes me want to dance a little, to slide/glide around the kitchen in nothing but my socks, even, but all the way through I find myself listening for those portentous little signs, the important bits which inform me that all is not as it seems. That all is not as it should be. Not as it once was. I want to tune into these lyrics, to remember them, to lock them away in a corner of my mind so that when the apocalypse does finally arrive, I can’t say I wasn’t warned …

Highlights include: ‘Swedish Guns’, ‘We Got Game’, ‘Occupied’, the title track, and the closer, ‘Teach Me To Forget’ …

But enough from me, here’s what the band itself had to say about the album upon its completion:

"We have just finished our 4th full-length album, Running Out of Love. An album about life in Sweden in 2016 and how our society seems to be in regression on so many levels. Politically, intellectually, morally...It’s an album about all the things that are moving in the wrong direction. It’s about the impatience that turns into anger, hate and ultimately withdrawal and apathy when love for the world and our existence begins to falter.

"For the third time in a row we have made two albums instead of one. After constant touring for a couple of years after our latest release, Clinging to a Scheme, we started writing and recording an album that we later decided to scrap. As some of you might be aware, we have been caught up in a lengthy legal battle with our record label and publisher. We took a pause from releasing singles and EP’s and instead spent our time hanging out with friends, working odd jobs and just loafing around. Ultimately we lost the court case but still managed to reach an agreement with the record company that gave us the motivation to create music again.
"In the summer of 2014, ideas and a concept for Running Out of Love started to come together and the single “Death to Fascism”, now too old to be included, was the first effort towards the new album. Later, more new songs started to appear. The court case is taken care of in “Occupied”, the Swedish weapon and arms industry in “Swedish Guns” and “We Got Game” is about the proud police tradition of protecting nazis and racists, whilst at the same time using brutal violence against opposing groups of protesters.
"Running Out of Love has moulded itself into a rather dystopian album, mainly because it was created in a sense of deep frustration over the reactionary currents which characterize our time."
Here’s ‘Running Out of Love’ …


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