Thursday, 29 July 2010
THE LATEST RADIO DEPT ALBUM IS SUPERB, ESPECIALLY "HEAVEN'S ON FIRE"
"Subiza" (copyright Delorean 2010) is a timely portmanteau word. It offers a useful means of collecting together a variety of quasi-Balearic excursions from the past few years: from direct pastiche (Mountain of One); to looser approximations of late-eighties neo-psychedelic euphoria (jj, Beach House, Delorean); to historicist revivals within dance music itself (of which, regrettably, I don't have any examples to hand, though I feel sure they exist). On top of this, it seems like all my friends are heading to Ibiza this year, as if the noughties never happened (a nice thought, this. Just stop and think about it for a second).
Anyway, in "Heaven's On Fire", Radio Dept have written the Subizan anthem par excellence. Vocals dripping with understated, ambrosial cool, immaculate housey keyboard riffs, and a sample about destroying "the bogus capitalist process that destroys youth culture", which should sound naive and embarrassing, but is actually just poignantly, simply true. This is an absolutely phenomenal bit of songwriting.
Moreover, it underlines an aspect of "classic" or "high" indie that seems to have become pretty rare over the past decade. I'm thinking about a basic sense of ateleological hopelessness/hopefulness, the kind you get with a tune like New Order's "Ceremony". Like "Ceremony", "Heaven's on Fire" is an indie record in the purest, definitive sense. There is an anti-utilitarian, edge-of-the-world feeling about it, the feeling that everyone knows someone is about to die and there’s nothing to do but, well, lament. A feeling of imminent burial transfigured by blind optimism.
I don't mean to get too Gothic, and to be slightly more concrete, this is clearly a question of context and milieu. Radio Dept seem to embody the old-skool indie notion of the well-kept secret: a group of friends together since high school, releasing an album every few years, not bothered (even obviously nonplussed) about the big time. Strip away all the fashion, hype and nonsense; the provision of this sort of environment, the valorization of this sort of ideal, was indie music’s great gift to the world. Like the hippy-dippy anti-capitalist sample at the start of "Heaven's On Fire", this might sound naively obvious, but it's a truth that bears endless repetition.