Thursday, July 16, 2015

Radioactivity: the second album!

I've been eagerly awaiting Radioactivity's second album ever since the first one was released. Let's review: Radioactivity is Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan from The Marked Men along with Daniel Fried and Gregory Rutherford from Bad Sports. It's tempting to think of this band as a continuation of The Marked Men. But that's not quite accurate. Whereas The Marked Men is an equal creative partnership, Radioactivity is Burke's vehicle. Still, there's no denying that good things happen when he and Ryan get together to make music.

After all these years, Burke has developed a signature style as a vocalist and songwriter. What he's been doing with Radioactivity is taking that style and evolving it a little. Silent Kill, the new album, manages an ideal combination of familiarity and pleasant surprises. If you're looking for differences in this album, they're very subtle. Burke isn't trying to re-invent his approach to songwriting. Silent Kill's marriage of electrifying garage punk and tuneful power pop is straight out of the Jeff Burke/Marked Men playbook. With so many devotees and imitators out there these days, it's a pleasure to hear the master showing everyone how it's done. Scorching tracks like "Battered" and "No Alarm" provide instant gratification for anyone craving the "classic" Jeff Burke sound. The guy still knows how to sneak stellar hooks into a fast and aggressive shot of punk rock adrenaline. But it's the slower-paced songs that ultimately make the greater impression. The songwriting sensibility is melodic but not over the top "poppy". I love how Burke and co-producer Ryan were able to use the smallest touches (a haunting backing vocal here, an inventive guitar lead there) to bring a unique tone to mid-tempo pop songs like "Stripped Away" and "Where I Come From". The feel is darker and more contemplative, and it's carried off well. "Way Out" almost out-Buzzcocks the Buzzcocks!

Silent Kill is a logical successor to the first Radioactivity album. It gives you a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new. One minute it's leaning power pop, the next it's kicking up enough punk vigor to power a major city. This album throws a few bones to longtime fans, but by no means can it been written off as just another installment in the Marked Men franchise. Very often, we expect our favorite musicians to stick with what they do best yet not repeat themselves. Seems like an impossible task, eh? But that's essentially what Burke and the gang have been doing with Radioactivity. And as long as Burke continues to write songs as good as "Pretty Girl", I will eagerly await each new record. Silent Kill is a first-rate work of garage/punk/powerpop - brought to you by some guys who helped invent the genre. Get it from Dirtnap Records!


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