Radar Bros. – Radar Bros.

3 out of 5

Label: Restless Records

Produced by: Jim Putnam

I’ve mentioned in another review of Radar Bros.’ material that it can be hard to qualify in terms of how its changed over the years, but I now realize – I rarely listen to their debut, self-titled album, and they’ve definitely changed since then.

The core sound of the group is certainly identifiable – the slow crawl with a strong beat; the gentle waves of guitar; Jim Putnam’s hummed and crooned vocals – but it’s also a lot more vague and open-ended at this point. His lyrics have that undercurrent of darkness mixed with cynicism – a forever crooked grin – the imagery is very scattershot, though. And the slocore tag was in full effect here, stripped to guitar, bass, and drums with minimal flourish. The group does excel at crafting incredibly pleasant rhythms with that barebones structure, and many songs burst in to wonderful choruses where the distortion buzzes just enough, and the drums kick that much more – certainly enough to hold attentions for the first few tracks, even if a certain cohesiveness, and perhaps willingness to let a song evolve past that rhythm and burst, eludes the Bros. at this point. After about the midway point of the album, though, while your head is still bobbing along and you’re humming Jim’s melodies – occasionally caught off guard by a sudden splash of keys or effects – there’s the sense that’ve you’ve heard most of what the group can do.

Had this been my first RB album, the sound is still unique – plenty of groups do the minimal and delicate thing, but Putnam and crew carved out a corner where they could add a bit of gloom and edginess to that mix. Sprinkling it with Jim’s Kermit vocals results in a sound that only belong to Radar Bros., and has remained theirs in the decades since. But this is still a very basic version of their sound, and one they would start to iterate on (if slowly) soon after.