Keen on the Radio Dept.

Radio Dept. and Young Prisms at the Crocodile, Seattle | 12 February 2011

As the Radio Dept. left the stage after their main set, I wondered did we really need the band here?  They had left the stage, but crackling and frayed recorded backing was still blasting from the PA.  The song continued to Ebb and flow without the band even there. A minute passed and it peaked and then faded out, and I thought to myself, wow that sounded amazing and it was just a tape.   We were left standing there hoping that the trio would come back out for another song because even with their pre-recorded drums and sounds, the Radio Dept. had just finished a solid set that put to rest any lingering questions I had about them not being able to do the live thing without a drummer. They had effortlessly created the early shoegaze of Lesser Matters, the cinematic sounds of Pet Grief and their newer jazz and Ibiza era New Order influenced songs and had left me and the rest of the Crocodile wanting more.

Apparently the band played Seattle back in 2003 at Chop Suey, as singer Johan Duncanson mentioned that he ran into someone that was at the show.  That was after their first album Lesser Matters had come out here on Shelflife.  I’ve got to imagine that it was quite a different show than the one at the sold out Crocodile last night.  I doubt it had girls on their boyfriend’s shoulders looking like they were ready to throw undergarments on stage yelling for them and  I doubt it had guys waving lighters above their heads during songs. Obviously Radio Dept are on the cusp of leaving, or have completely shed  their cult status.

They pulled heavily from last year’s Clinging To a Scheme, but left out one of my favorites from the record, the noisy Memory Loss which sounds like it could have come off of Lesser Matters. A minor quibble really, and I’m sure everyone there could have easily named another five songs they wished they would have played, but they pulled highlights from all three records and some b-sided to try and satisfy on this rare trip over to the U.S.  The set may have lulled a little in the middle, but when Heaven’s On Fire kicked in everyone perked up and they didn’t lose our attention for the rest of set.  Duncanson and Martin Carlberg are both really good guitarists (Carlberg picked up his Gibson Bass for a few songs, but played it like a guitar) and Duncanson’s sleepy cool voice is no fake, sounding exactly like it does on record. I had heard reports that they come across as a bit reserved live and had heard some complaints about them being drummer-less, but the sound did the talking and more than made up for any Nordic stoicism the band may have.  A lot of their music is fabricated from electronics on record , so it wasn’t as if they were faking it live.  The opposite in fact, it felt as real as any show I’ve been to in the last year and hearing songs like David, 1995, Heaven’s On Fire and Ewan live was something I thought I’d never have the chance to do as this notoriously reclusive band rarely tour.

mp3: Radio Dept. – The New Improve Hipocracy (from Passive Aggressive)

mp3: Radio Dept. – 1995 (from Lesser Matters)

Buy some Radio Dept. music.

Set List (from memory so it may not be 100%): Freddie and the Trojan Horse | This Time Around | The New Improved Hypocrisy | David | I Wanted You To Feel The Same |The Worst Taste in Music | Messy Enough | Ewan | You Stopped Making Sense | Domestic Scene | Heaven’s On Fire | Never Follow Suit |Closing Scene | Encore: 1995

San Francisco’s Young Prisms opened and were way better than the impression they made on me with their EP on Mexican Summer and their recent album Friends For Now on Kanine.  The came across as confident and competent in the art of shoegaze as well as garage.  On record it sounds like it’s mostly a guy singing but live Stefanie Hodapp is the obvious singer and the band are much better for it.  She reminded me  more than a little like Rachel Goswell from her Slowdive days.  They only played about 30 minutes, but it was more than enough to make me want to give their record another spin.

mp3: Young Prisms – Sugar (from Friends for Now)

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