This is a return to form for the Brooklyn-based Radio 4 after a well received debut (Gotham, 2002) but then a lacklustre second Stealing Of A Nation two years later. Like those previous efforts they invest a political angle to many of the songs (the US Government’s abject failure to deal with the aftermath of hurricaine Katrina is considered on a couple) and maintain an urgent and dynamic groove throughout, but this is the first release on a major label – so the pressure’s on.
they invest a political angle to many of the songs
The opening title track is a statement of intent, and a decent marker for the rest of the album. It is a fierce, driving four-and-a-half minutes built around a militaristic drum roll and quite heavy circular riff. It’s nothing that hasn’t been heard on alt-rock radio before but is quality and played with passion. Enemies Like This hangs together well whilst still managing to vary styles and pace, and is generally split between indie/rock influences and their looser take on house or disco. Though all have a central tenet of attempting to make the feet move.
Radio 4 are at their best during their faster, dance based songs like the aggressive punk-funk of “Too Much To Ask For” or “This Is Not A Test”. The latter is closest in spirit to their breakthrough hit “Dance To The Underground”, and like that song it’s a fantastic percussive-led hypnotic groove with a call and response vocal. These two tracks bear the influence of current producer Jagz Kooner (who has remixed the Chemical Brothers and Primal Scream) and previous knob-twiddlers the DFA, whose dubbed-out disco seems a particular starting point for a couple of the songs on offer. There is success elsewhere from the aforementioned template in the soaring Echo and The Bunnymen-indie of “Grass Is Greener” and the strange funk of “All In Control” — one of a few tracks to take its cues from Talking Heads. Less successful is “Always A Target” which veers too close to U2 territory.
It’s a testament to the band’s live proficiency that most tracks were taken as first or second takes.
A vague spirit of dub and reggae runs through this record, particularly Anthony Roman’s taut basslines, and it generally works well, though when at it’s most explicit this influence feels forced. “Ascension Street” veers too close to tribute/parody, not helped by Roman’s admittance that “We like to get into the reggae/dancehall world at least a couple of times a record” (
In general this is a well produced record — clear, loud but not overproduced. It’s a testament to the band’s live proficiency that most tracks were taken as first or second takes. It is also mostly a good dance-rock record, which seemed something of an oxymoron after attempts by the likes of Paul Oakenfold to mix these styles (emphasis on the moron). And there is an admirable, and not too clumsy attempt to deal with the big issues. That’s not to say it’s all good stuff. Despite PR claims to the contrary, it’s easy to pick the influences on many of the songs and it almost seemed like they ticked a few boxes of artists or genres they wanted to sound like beforehand. So no world-changer or beater in the great pantheon of pop music but a diverting creation nonetheless.