Radkey Dons Dark Black Makeup

Radkey‘s talent is mesmerizing and enviable: mesmerizing because the band manages a delicate touch despite their heavy and sludge-mired guitars, a pop catchiness with a punk awareness, and enviable because of their youth, because their art seems to come effortlessly. The St. Joe trio seems to have mastered the art of writing a song before they needed to start shaving. Seriously, from their earliest material, the band has penned some of the most compelling songs not only in the area but in the entire music scene.

And their debut, Dark Black Makeup, shows a band continually pushing itself to new heights. Whereas their EPs seemed to be merely a collection of songs (great songs nonetheless), Dark Black Makeup seems more cohesive conceptually and from a narrative standpoint. That said, the album is a far cry from a heady concept album (like one’s by The Mars Volta or Pink Floyd). Radkey is still Radkey on Dark Black Makeup, just a bit more developed.

The album seems to follow a central character has they navigate the trials and tribulations of the post-modern world. Part Stephen Dedalus, part Misfit, part Hunter S. Thompson, the voice of the album is, like the music it cuts through, smart, immediate, and concise–a combination that maximizes both the band’s lyrical acumen and musical power.

While Dark Black Makeup works well as a cohesive unit, each song can stand alone. Whether it’s the dark pop circling of “Sank,” or the politically aware and undeniably catchy title track, or the danceable punk of “Feel,” Radkey hits a variety of tones throughout the album. All of them seem more than capable to show the band at its peak. On a micro-level, Dark Black Makeup shows a Radkey that puts each moment under a microscope to make it as polished as it needs to be. But that’s not quite news for a band whose shown that level of intensity since its inception.

For all the growing up Radkey has done as the brothers moved from Cat and Mouse to Dark Black Makeup, there is still a youthful recklessness that broils under the album’s structure. At its heart, Dark Black Makeup is still a punk album. It’s guitar lines are sludgy and fast, its bass fuzzed and pummeling, its percussion intricate and driving. And perhaps this passionate core is what gives the album its power. Any band seems to be able to write and record a hyper-structured, cohesive album, but Radkey gives that order a charge of angst in a way no other band could.

As debuts go, Radkey couldn’t have put out a better one. One the hand, Dark Black Makeup is raw and passionate, and on the other it is conceptually well structured. In either case, the Radke brothers show that they can write a full album as wonderful as the best of their single songs–a feat few bands can accomplish. Dark Black Makeup is definitely worth the listen just as Radkey is worth seeing live.

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