September 21, 2003

Radio Berlin "Glass"

As loathe as I may be to admit it, I've liked some of the post-punk/new wave-inspired bands that have come to the spotlight. True, a lot of these bands are being propelled to prominence by nothing more than pure hype, and for many of those bands, they won't be around when the hype machine moves on. Like the first time this kind of music was popular, many of these bands simply do not have the creative energy or ability to make anything more than one good record. When you mix your music with fashion, when the fashion is forgotten, your music probably will be, too.

What saves Radio Berlin? It's simple, really. They don't base their entire sound upon synths and dance rhythms, and, ultimately, they don't sound like the Eighties--at least not the trendy view of the Eighties. They're not really trying to be anything other than an indie-rock band who happen to own a few records by Joy Division, The Cure, Falco, and New Order, and who like the sound just enough to base their overall style upon it. Unlike The Faint, who are nothing more than a new-wave novelty act (there's a reason they're taking a long time for a follow-up), Radio Berlin haven't invested their muse in fleeting fads.

True, there are a few things about Radio Berlin that irk me more than a little bit. First, they could have lived without releasing "How Fast Can You Run?" While it's true that their sound is inspired and not indebted to the post-punk era, this song is the only time where they slip up and actually imitate Joy Division. It's a bit annoying, but as this is the only time where they cross over that fine line between inspiration and imitation, it's forgiveable. It doesn't hurt that it comes at the end of the album, so it's not that big of a deal. Also, it might not hurt to do a little editing. Two great songs, "D.E.S." and "Aftermath," run a little bit long; neither would have been hurt by taking out a minute or or so out of them.

I really cannot place Radio Berlin on the same level as bands like The Faint, Hot Hot Heat or Radio 4. Like a few of these bands, Radio Berlin appeared back when yesterday's trends were still months away from being 'the future', which gives them the advantage of musical maturation at the peak of genre saturation. Their sound, while inspired by the past, doesn't sound terribly contrived. Unlike the boring Faint, though, I think they'll have a career when the hip spotlight moves on to whatever it is that will be big next week. Still, I like these kids. They're not overly pretty and they don't seem to be pretentious--and they're trying. One or two little slip-ups here and there ain't a bad thing, and Glass is a rather fun listen. Put it on your car radio, and you'll be awkwardly angular and arty for the next half hour. Better still, you'll enjoy it. (Just don't tell anyone that you did.)

--Joseph Kyle

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