Friday, February 24, 2012

PASSIVE/AGGRESSIVE: SINGLES 2002-2010 - The Radio Dept. (2011)

When you're a veteran indie act who has worked in relative anonymity for almost a decade, and then you suddenly have a breakout moment, as Sweden's The Radio Dept. did in 2010 with their album Clinging To A Scheme and monster single Heaven's On Fire, the decision to follow up that breakthrough with a quickly assembled, career-spanning retrospective makes sense.

Gather the best of your earlier material, package it all together, and then get the retrospective out there as fast as possible to lock down your new found fans.

But for talented but undeniably limited B-Tier artists like The Radio Dept., such a move can also come at a price, for it can put your weaknesses in as stark a relief as your strengths, and that's exactly what happens on Passive/Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010.

On the positive side, Passive/Aggressive's twenty-eight tracks make it abundantly clear that The Radio Dept. are marvelous drone-pop texturists.  Whether going for soft and gentle (something they do quite often), or adopting a harder fuzz-guitar charge, just about every song on the album opens in a winning manner and sustains a breathy charm.

Unfortunately, what this expansive set also makes clear is that musically speaking, the band is interested in little else.

Get through the opening verse/chorus of any track on Passive/Aggressive, and you've heard all that song will offer...there are no gradual instrumental builds, no unexpected turns, no enticing solos or shifts in momentum...there's the opening design, and that's it.

Obviously, this charge of non-progressive simplicity could be levied against the greater chunk of pop music throughout history, and it is a non-issue when taking in just a few of Passive/Aggressive's tracks at a time.

But stretched out over twenty-eight songs with nary a change up, the band's avoidance of...if not outright disdain for...rock's more progressive techniques seems particularly problematic, and can become quite irksome when listening to the album in full.  .

Still, I don't want to focus too heavily on the negatives: there are a number of tiny indie-rock gems afloat in this plaintive dream pop sea, and overall it's a collection well worth hearing.

And while each disc has its moments, I find that I consistently gravitate towards the more casual flow of B-Sides, instrumentals, and throwaways gathered on Disc 2 over Disc 1's more meticulously assembled singles...probably because a looser approach to anything only helps when dealing with this band.

Status: Solid Recommend.

Cherry Pickers Best Bets: Where Damage Isn't Already Done, Pulling Our Weight, David, Heaven's On Fire, Leibling, What You Sell, Mad About The Boy, Messy Enough.

Here's the video for 2006 single Pulling Our Weight.

Component Breakdown:

1. Why Won't You Talk About It - 7
2. Where Damage Isn't Already Done - 9
3. Annie Laurie - 7
4. Ewan - 6
5. Pulling Our Weight - 8
6. This Past Week - 7
7. The Worst Taste In Music - 6
8. We Made The Team - 6
9. Bachelor Kisses - 7
10. Freddie And The Trojan Horse - 7
11. David - 8
12. Heaven's On Fire - 10
13. Never Follow Suit - 6
14. The New Improved Hypocrisy - 7
Intangibles - Average

1. Liebling - 8
2. We Would Fall Against The Tide - 6
3. You And Me Then? - 6
4. Peace Of Mind - 7
5. Taget - 6
6. Slottet - 6
7. What You Sell -  8
8. Mad About The Boy - 8
9. Closing Scene - 7
10. Messy Enough - 7
11. The Idle Urban Contemporaries - 7
12. All About Our Love - 6
13. On Your Side - 7
14. The One - 6
Intangibles - Above Average
Spotify / I-Tunes

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