The Radio Dept. have amassed as large a mutual admiration society of press and recording contemporaries as you'll find anywhere this past decade. While it would be unfair to dwell on the fact they've never really matched the gushing levels of praise in terms of record sales, their influence and legacy lives on through the likes of Cut Copy, M83 and to a lesser extent Emeralds, all of whom owe a small depth of gratitude to The Radio Dept.'s incendiary concoction of mesmeric shoegaze and ambient electronica.
Cited by many as chief protagonists of the ridiculously titled 'nu gaze' revival, it would probably be more accurate to recognise The Radio Dept. as one of the most progressive European guitar orientated outfits to emerge this past decade. While the lineage of their earliest recordings can be traced back to an era where Ride, My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins ruled the airwaves, their bold decision to incorporate synthesized and often dancefloor initiated sounds within their textured reverb-laden palette has set them aside from virtually all that followed in their wake.
Despite only releasing three albums over their ten-year career, each one has stood out as a carefully considered, boldly orchestrated masterpiece in its own right. Whether that be the more youthful strains of 2003's Lesser Matters, or the lavish, mature electronic trajectory that binds last year's Clinging To A Scheme, The Radio Dept. have developed an instantly recognisable style all of their own.
Passive Aggressive compiles a selection of singles and EP tracks across two CDs, from their initial forays in the studio back in 2002 to the present day. Totalling a mammoth 28 songs in all, Passive Aggressive boasts a meticulously high standard of quality from start to finish that doesn't just highlight what an essential outfit The Radio Dept. are, but illustrates the benchmark any artists past, present or future must surely aspire to when making this sort of music.
Listening back to early singles 'Why Won't You Talk About It?' and 'Where Damage Isn't Already Done' - and in particular respective b-sides 'Liebling' and 'We Would Fall Against The Tide' - in comparison to more recent offerings 'Never Follow Suit' and 'The New Improved Hypocrisy' The Radio Dept.'s development can be traced along the way like stages of an Open University degree course. The former's exuberant surge of reverb and feedback gradually evolving into a more hypnotic miasma of looped melodies and driving beats on the latter, like a more refined Neu! for the post-millennial generation.
As comparable to New Order or Saint Etienne as the more ethereal shoegaze bands of the early Nineties - 'This Past Week' and the delectable Go-Betweens re-interpretation 'Bachelor Kisses' immediately spring to mind - there's something quite organic about their effortless transformation between noise-infused guitar band and genial synthetic pop commentators.
Undeniably special in every conceivable way, The Radio Dept. should be a household name, and would be in that longed for a parallel universe where commercial success was measured only in terms of creative excellence. We could go on about how great this compilation really is until the cows come home, the Thurston Moore sampling 'Heaven's On Fire' possibly explaining why such documents as Passive Aggressive are essentially vital in rock and roll's present transitional phase.
9Dom Gourlay's Score