(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

CD review - Radical Dads, Mega Rama (2011)

When I included Radical Dads in last month's singles review, I put their album, Mega Rama on my list. The cheery guitar-fest of New Age Dinosaur was a joy and I wanted to see whether the album followed through on that sound. For the most part, Mega Rama does aim for the same sparkly indie pop/rock vibe, with shimmers of guitar and close-harmony, proclamatory vocals. Beyond that, though, Radical Dads stretch out from that home base to reach towards post punk. Those songs sometimes tone down the band's basic happy vibe, but never quite slide into darkness.

Alondra Rainbow Under Attack hits this post punk sound the strongest. With hints of the Cure and Bauhaus, the breathless vocals smooth out the angular, spiky guitar riffs. Other tracks make milder gestures towards that vibe, like Walking Wires. Here, the indie rock sound is swirled together with the new wave. An REM melody and Go Go's vocal parts meld with the thick guitar sound that defines Radical Dads.

It's not all loud, echoing guitars, though. The drumming is deceptively complex -- rhythmic elements come out on the third or fourth listen, adding depth. The slightly flattened, doubled vocal lines add a touch of naiveté. The last two tracks, Hurricane and Tide's Out, toy with dreamier, ambient elements.

As much as I enjoyed New Age Dinosaur, Hurricane turned out to be my favorite track. It starts with a slow, hypnotic build of sounds that finally coalesces into a song. The feel and vocal sound both recall Liz Phair, like Explain It To Me or Shatter (Exit in Guyville), complemented by richer guitar complexity. The half sleeping indie rock seems to close out:
This is the end of the late summer sun
It's heavy overhead but it might be nothing
Just a hurricane coming, hurricane coming, hurricane coming,
Here comes the end
But it's a false ending that sets up a minute or so of cathartic, noisy, Velvet Underground flail.

Tide's Out continues the Liz Phair vocal sound. A lone guitar riff starts but is subsumed in a cotton wool grind of guitars seasoned with bright sparks of sound. The repetition of the chorus, along with the spikier slur of jangled notes, has an obsessive sound. The tentative wail of feedback at the end resolves nothing, but it's not a failure. It just means that it's time to restart Mega Rama for another listen.

Mega Rama releases June 14.

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