The New Song And Dance
By: Eric G.
Bored by the cliquish and self-indulgent path of modern punk rock, Radio 4 rejects such trappings by turning back the calendar to 1979 when bands like The Clash, Gang Of Four, Wire, and The Fall were writing the book of fiery post punk. Radio 4 explores the energy of minimalist yet melodic punk with dub bass lines, sharp, angular guitars, and tense, almost danceable tempos. This is not some kind of retro tribute; Radio 4’s aggressive, rhythmically propulsive swagger is far too energetic to be taken as some sort re-hashing. The style may be borrowed, but the message is now.
Boston’s Tim O’Heir (Sebadoh, Belly, Come) provides The New Song And Dance with an immaculate sheen. The guitars prickle against the low-end rhythm section. Radio 4 has the British post-punk sound down pat. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear this was released twenty years ago. There’s even a hint of Joe Jackson’s angry melodies lurking beneath the staccato guitars. Each song has a clear chorus- half-yelled and half-sung with a Clash-like affectation by Anthony Roman, formerly of the far-underrated Garden Variety. The rhythms are erratic and disjointed, but they inspire movement in the same strange way Gang Of Four always did.
“How The Stars Got Crossed” has a moody, Joy Division-esque patter with that telltale muted/released guitar arpeggio made famous by Bernard Sumner. Radio 4 even takes a stab at relevancy with songs that brim with socio-political leanings. “Beat Around The Bush” is the most blatant Clash-ism. The anthematic chorus recalls pre-Sandinista meanderings, and the bass line hints at The Clash’s obsession with reggae and R&B. “(No More Room For) Communication” mixes an unmistakable nod to Joe Jackson in the chorus with arty, discordant guitars. “Get Set To Fall Out” has a dark disco tone similar to early “Kick In The Eye”-era Bauhaus. Don’t get the wrong impression- Radio 4 is clearly its own band. The references merely place the band in context.
The New Song And Dance is the perfect (re)introduction to punk’s true roots, especially for those who think pop punk is punk. It’s amazing that more bands haven’t embraced this rhythmic strain of punk in the past fifteen years. Radio 4 aligns itself with some heady bands (Mission Of Burma, The Cure, Au Pairs), but it’s got the chops to hold its own. With an eclectic punk rock pedigree (Garden Variety, Sleepasaurus, Milhouse) to its credit, it’s no surprise that Radio 4’s debut is so good.