The Radio Dept. - Running Out of Love (Labrador)

Swedish alt. pop group return with politically charged new LP, their first since 2010

Released Oct 21st, 2016 via Labrador / By Richard Lewis
The Radio Dept. - Running Out of Love (Labrador) Responsible for one of the previous decades’ finest albums, their much-admired fuzz pop debut Lesser Matters, the career of Swedish alt pop auteurs The Radio Dept. has been frustratingly stop-start. The extended lay-off between the present LP and its predecessor, 2010s well-received Clinging to a Scheme is at least understandable with the group being involved in legal action against their publisher and record label, shedding several band members along the way.

Songwriters whose lyrics on previous releases took a back seat to the rich melodies, here they are thrown in far greater focus. Taking aim at the turbulent political situation in their home country and the rise of the anti-immigration conservative Sweden Democrats, the group are able to universalize these concerns beyond their home country. Musically the duo's gradual progression away from the sound of their first LP, the fuzzy guitar and live drum sound has given way to synths and programmed beats now reaches its completion, as guitars are almost entirely absent here.

Opener Sloboda Narodu sets out the band’s political stall from the off, the slogan ‘Death to fascism, freedom to the people’ the motto of the Yugoslav Resistance during WWII cushioned by a keyboard motif strangely reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden. Swedish Guns is a broadside targeted at the arms industry, which along with the short and sweet This Thing Was Bound to Happen combine aerated melodic touches with lyrical depth.

We Got Game ushered in on a deliberately archaic tinny drum machines and sequencers sounding like something from a Technotronic record circa 1990 clicks into place brilliantly while the lyrics showcase the band's newfound scabrous side, ‘Like with this bunch of racist goons/The kind of guys you would not like to spoon/If in power one whiskey sour/And everyone I love would be jailed within the hour

Occupied, which attacks record label Labrador, (who are issuing the LP as the last in their contract with the group) is founded on ominous Twin Peaks/Laura Palmer's Theme style synth chords (later sampled by Moby for Go) and drum machine handclaps, blossoms into something akin to the Pet Shop Boys at their most melancholy. The lengthy Can’t Be Guilty is a weak link in the chain, where the textures are not married to enough of a vocal hook to hit the mark as the rest of the disc does, yet possesses the capacity to sound colossal live. Committed to the Cause revolving around a shuffling bass-groove weirdly akin to Fool’s Gold with a nineties house piano riff is a highlight of the set that stretches towards an extended instrumental coda in impressive fashion.

The title track is a beautifully relaxed vocal-free piece which features one of the few guitar parts on the album while Teach Me to Forget juxtaposing the euphoric with the downbeat opens with what sounds like the piano riff from Faithless’ Insomnia broadcast from deep underwater avoids politics but is far from settled, ‘Please teach me to forget/I’ve got nothing but regret/Teach me to forget/Don’t hesitate, just press reset’.

A largely demonstrable success in re-tooling their sound and overhauling their subject matter, thankfully the band have indicated in interviews that the next album won’t be anything like as long in gestation. Welcome back.