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EP Review: The Radio Dept. – Never Follow Suit [Labrador]

No matter how well they do for themselves, The Radio Dept. never seem to get enough press in America. It may be different in other countries, but the U.S. seems relatively content to ignore the Swedish band. Of course they haven’t made it difficult to do so, only putting out a full length every 3-4 years and playing an extremely small number of shows not just in North America but around the world in general. Clearly they have their reasons, you’ve just got to wonder how well they might be doing were they to put up a little more effort. In terms of releases, The Radio Dept. aren’t necessarily slacking off between their albums. They tend to release a handful of singles from each record and turn a couple into EPs as well with handfuls of b-sides and other unreleased material. Case in point, the band put out their third album “Clinging to a Scheme” early this year, and put out the 4-track “David” EP a couple months before it as a preview. Then they did the “Heaven’s On Fire” single shortly after the record’s release. They were going to do another EP for the third single “Never Follow Suit” this past June, but it was pushed back and will finally see release this week. The track listing has changed to feature three new songs in addition to the single and an extended remix by Pistol Disco. The two tracks originally slated to appear on the EP have now disappeared under the assumption that they will pop up again on another future release.

First and foremost, for the casual Radio Dept. fan, or at least the ones that don’t give them that much attention, the “Never Follow Suit” EP isn’t essential by any means. You’re much better off putting a laser beam focus on “Clinging to a Scheme”, what with its multitude of singles and long form style. Without a doubt though, “Never Follow Suit” is one of the best songs on the album, and worthy at the very least of its own standalone single no doubt being pushed to American radio stations that will never play it. Tragic, given how catchy it is. The origins of the song are fascinating in themselves, with the band writing it in response to the minor success they achieved in the wake of having multiple songs on the soundtrack to the Sofia Coppola film “Marie Antoinette”. Apparently they received a number of offers and solicitations for new material, many of them trying to push for certain sounds. Not happy with being forced into a corner, The Radio Dept. chose instead to go their own direction, and “Never Follow Suit” is their response to that.

Before the EPs title track though, things kick off with new song “The One”, which has a similar bounce and piano line to “Never Follow Suit”. The two tracks naturally compliment one another, and not a single beat is missed in transition if you listen to both in a row. It may not have quite the hook that the title track does, but that was probably the point. The other two EP-exclusive songs add up to just a little less, but are remarkable enough to elevate them to a level above your average b-side. “Stay Off Route” is a pretty dancey instrumental with almost Balearic keyboards that shuts down at just under the 2 minute mark. The song could have been so much more, but as a brief lead-in to “On Your Side” it serves its purpose. Needing something more of a ballad, “On Your Side” fills that role nicely while simultaneously providing an almost play-by-play of everything that comes before it. The lyrics make references back to the title track and some lush acoustic guitar strums provide gentle accents to the computer-crafted beats and light keyboards. It’s not the most memorable thing The Radio Dept. have done, but it apparently was good enough to wind up on the band’s collection “Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010” that will be out next year. The EP closes with an 8-minute Pistol Disco “dub” remix of the title track cleverly retitled “Never Swallow Fruit”. If you’ve heard the original “Never Follow Suit” either earlier in the EP or simply prior to now, there’s a pretty good layout for how the track can be remixed, and Pistol Dub follows it like a road map. On the one hand it’s somewhat nice to get an extended mix of the song for clubs, but on the other Pistol Dub fails to do much beyond what’s already there. Simply put, the remix lacks a little spice or unexpected excitement. The best remixes take odd but workable left turns, and this one stays on the straight and narrow.

With an EP such as this one, it’s relatively tough to slap a recommendation on it. This one’s mostly for the purest of the purists, those that need to have every piece of music that The Radio Dept. releases. If you really like the band but aren’t too keen on spending the money for the couple new tracks that make up this EP, take some solace that their label Labrador is offering up most of it as a free download, and a missing piece or two will show up in a few months as part of the band’s double disc singles collection. In other words, the “Never Follow Suit” EP is little more than a collector’s item that might be nice to own on vinyl (they’re only pressing 1,000 copies, and they’ll probably go quickly). The songs are all pretty good in their own way (even if the remix is a little shaky), and if you have any interest in the band you should check them out. If you go digital you’ll probably pay little to nothing for the privilege, and that’s about as good of a price as you can get these days.

The Radio Dept. – Never Follow Suit
The Radio Dept. – The One
The Radio Dept. – Never Swallow Fruit (Dub by Pistol Disco) (via Pitchfork)

Buy the “Never Follow Suit” EP on vinyl from Labrador
Buy the EP digitally from Amazon

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1 Comment

  1. Rob

    Thanks for posting. I heard them on some tundra college radio station up in Minnesota… thank GOD they put a live playlist on their website. Anyhow, it figures I had to find out about it from Chicago. I hated to leave that place. Thanks again, -R

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