Zeroes’ Heroes 08: Radio 4 - Gotham [2002]

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3 Oct 2009, 18:41


Over the course of the last 6 months of this decade, i’ll be putting together my favorite twelve albums of the years 2000 up to and 2009. Why twelve? It was too hard to actually cut it down to ten, and reviewing two albums a month seems like a good pace. Expect some safe choices, some incomprehensible ones, but most of all a record-collector having a go at recollecting an eclectic decade.

Dance-punk. Perhaps that word sums up best what happened in alternative music in the past ten years. Dance, because there wasn’t much room for subtleties. Whatever music you made, it had to appeal to the body instead of the mind, it had to make you move before it made you think. And punk, well, file-sharing and the immediacy of internet prompted any musician to a more do-it-yourself approach of making and distributing songs.

The genre that was called dance-punk was at its height around 2005, with LCD Soundsystem as the centre of gravity. But by the time James Murphy’s band released their debut album that year, dance-punk had already crystallized, all the ingredients of the concoction were in the right balance. The hard work had been done a few years earlier, by The Rapture, who made danceable music and sounded like punks on some occasions... and Radio 4, who did both full-time.

Radio 4 formed in Brooklyn, 1999, and claimed that their sound is "made in New York, is about New York, and sounds like New York". With a little help from James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy they recorded their second album Gotham, and set a sonic template that bands like Bloc Party and The Dead 60s would happily adopt .

Even though Gotham was released in 2002, hitting the spot with its militant, call-to-arms message and sound in a post 9/11 world, in fact it was recorded in July 2001. The record is a commentary on New York and its people before the Twin Towers fell down, to make them dance, and then think. Songs about the need to discuss AIDS more constructively ("Who'd have thought disease could turn out passe?” from Start A Fire), the neglect of the arts (the self-explanatory Save Your City) and ubiquitously, about the injustice of former Mayor Giuliani's banning of dancing in many of the city's clubs.

The album is a full-speed subway ride, with stops only slowing down slightly in Speaking In Codes and Pipe Bombs. The funk comes from the rhythm section, the bass always at the front, and the drums sounds like Radio 4 nicked every dustbin lid in Brooklyn to bang on, to underline the statements they’re making. The punk is provided by the jagged guitars, most impressively on Our Town, and the impassioned vocals. You won’t find soppy love songs here, The Movies is the one that comes to something that resembles a traditional popsong at all.

After Gotham, Radio 4 returned in 2004 with Stealing Of A Nation, and while it showed some progression to a more electronic sound and traditional song structures, it rubbed me the wrong way completely with the overtly political message. On Gotham, their saving grace is that the lyrics are drowned out by the music. When the bass is turned up and the feet are dancing, the mind is open for anything.

Highlights: Our Town,Dance To The Underground, The Movies
Sources: Wikipedia, Allmusic, MusicOMH

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