Release Date: Jan 29, 2013
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Slowcore
Bands change their names — or don’t change them — for any number of reasons. Mark Kozelek created Sun Kil Moon, even though most of the band carried over from the last incarnation of the long-running Red House Painters, at least partially because he figured the new name would attract more press attention then yet another album from a fairly low profile band. The members of Joy Division couldn’t go on under that name after Ian Curtis hung himself (although, if they had and the name on Power, Corruption & Lies was Joy Division, would we think in 2013 that they made the wrong choice? often, these things seem inevitable only in hindsight).
Long-running Los Angeles unit Radar Bros. have chiseled out their particular niche with steadfast precision over their tenure. Closing in on 20 years of ever-shifting existence, eighth album Eight offers up even further refinements of songwriter Jim Putnam's unique style, blending shoegaze guitar tones with rootsy alt-country sensibilities. Songs like "Disappearer" and "If We Were Banished" twist lazy yet harmonious Neil Young-styled vocals around fuzzy guitar tones, with just enough ominous psychedelic darkness creeping up from below to keep things from getting too sleepy.
The latest album from the Los Angeles-based Radar Brothers will not overpower you. It won't floor you with its precision and it doesn't have any particularly catchy songs that stand out. That's just not their style, man. What Eight does have is a soothing, mellow atmosphere sprinkled with some beautiful melodies and nice sonic touches.
Emerging out of the early-90s slowcore movement that birthed fellow indie rock stalwarts Low, Radar Brothers matured into a sunnier, more psychedelic sound with 2002’s And the Surrounding Mountains. By the release of The Illustrated Garden eight years later, however, some of the praise the group had accumulated over the years was becoming muted in certain quarters by critics who felt that front man Jim Putnam had settled into too comfortable a groove to genuinely surprise the listener any longer. The band’s eighth release (appropriately titled Eight) should alleviate some of those concerns, at least.
Up to this point, there have been three aspects of the Radar Bros. that have remained fairly consistent. For one, there's singer Jim Putnam, who's been at the controls during the past two decades of frequent lineup changes. Their sprawling catalog has also been unified by a general lack of urgency, which has allowed them the ability to pass for pre-Limewire indie classifications such as slowcore, shoegaze, folk-rock, and even alt-country, the last one largely due to their name.