Silent Radio – Rhythm and Glue Smokey City Sweet New Age Soul Music

Silent Radio
Rhythm and Glue Smokey City Sweet New Age Soul Music

Don’t ask Silent Radio to describe what kind of music they play, because they’ll only give you the title of their new album. And don’t mention that smoky is spelled wrong, because they know it. Things like that aren’t apparently important to this Pittsburgh band.

So what kind of music is that, really? It’s pretty much power-pop, with an emphasis on the pop on some songs and power on others. There’s a decidedly late-70s feel to this whole album, whether on the softer poppy numbers or the out-right rockers. It’s not bad, really, but neither is it a stand-out album. Rather, the band fits right in there with a whole lot of other bands who can’t decide what their influence is going to be and instead sound like they rip pieces of other bands’ songs out to make their own.

The album starts with “Alyson” that has a very throw-back pop feel, and it reminds me a bit of Elvis Costello (even without mentioning the song title). Things get a bit more rocking with hints of a southern flare on “Sleep Death,” which features some strong guitar riffs. There’s a bit of a Pixies thing going on on “Harmonica Interlude” (which does not feature a harmonica but does have a cool Spy Hunter surf-rock thing going on). “Straight to My Heart” is a good example of where the power and pop work together, with the keyboards mitigating the kicking guitar riffs. The guitars on “She,” one of the best and most original songs here, are almost punkish and crunchy, a better sound for this band, and that gets even heavier on the next track, “Sex Positive.” The guitar on “Michael is Dead” is pretty cool, really wailing away over a pretty standard rhythm, and the sung chorus “Michael is dead, Michael is dead!” is pretty odd. This progress pretty typically from there, moving from fast (“Everything, Everything”) to slow (“Valentine”) and back again. “Get It!” is the best track here, having something of a Sebadoh-like indie rock feel with hints of attitude and some cool backing organ, but even that isn’t especially original. After “Annie Says,” a more morose and mellow track, the band fills three more tracks of noises and little diddies and other unusual things.

My first impression with this band is that these songs are slightly rough first drafts. On many of them, one or two riffs are repeated incessantly for that poppy, bouncy quality. The vocals seem forced at times, especially the ultra-deep backing vocals tossed in here and there, and the songs change up too often. Some are quite good, however, and quite catchy. It’s not enough, though, to make up for a relatively mediocre album.