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The Radio Dept. – Running Out of Love

7.8

 

When I first encountered the Radio Dept. I assumed it was a pseudonym for a few of Sofia Coppola’s friends creating barebones (and very good) New Order knockoffs for her Marie Antoinette soundtrack. Soon enough, I learned there was plenty more to this very real Swedish duo, including a shoegazey backstory.

Like their Manchester prototype, the Radio Dept. soon de-emphasized guitars in favor of synth-driven beats, but never lost their winning sense of melody en route to dancefloor atmospherics. They’ve always been more of a singles band – as proven by 2011’s excellent Passive Aggressive collection – but after a long layoff due in part to contract squabbles, Running Out Of Love finds the pair in fighting form.

Johan Duncanson and Martin Larsson’s lyrics have gradually shifted from boy/girl concerns to the political – their final pre-hiatus release was the 2010 single “The New Improved Hypocrisy” – but on Running Out of Love the gloves are fully off. Not that you’d know it from the music – the Radio Dept. deploys that battle tested tactic of cloaking their emotions behind detached vocals and deceptive moods.

You don’t need to know that the title of opener “Sloboda Narodu” translates to “power to the people,” a leftist Yugoslav slogan used during the Nazi resistance, to appreciate its subtle intrusion of Balkan beats. Titles like “Swedish Guns” (on which the duo’s fondness for dub reggae peeks through the surface) and “Thieves of State” lay things more bare, but the “Blue Monday”-era beats of “We Got Game” and “Occupied” and absence of raised voices make them easy to enjoy without pondering the state of modern Sweden. The back end of Running Out Of Love gets gentler and more melodic, recalling a similarly understated leftist band – Germany’s Notwist.

Good luck finding a photo of these Malmo dudes not looking thoroughly stoned and disinterested. The lyrics and quality of their music certainly indicate otherwise. Has anyone thought to nickname them the Head Shop Boys? If Running Out Of Love is the “contractual obligation” album many reports indicate, it’s an unusually committed one.

The Radio Dept.
Running Out Of Love
[Labrador]