THE RADIATORS FROM SPACE
One of the joys of growing up in the late 70s, especially at the height of the punk/new wave explosion, was trawling through the classified ads in the NME for singles by bands with weird and exotic names. Whilst I purchased my fair share of oddly named and even odder sounding records, occasionally I would stumble on a real gem that would stay with me forever. A case in point being Enemies by The Radiators From Space.
It is a true punk classic, fast paced with vitriolic, political lyrics and an infectious chorus. In truth, at the time, I knew little of the band and after their purchasing their debut album TV Tube Heart they disappeared off my radar.
Having formed originally in 1975 in Dublin, under the name Greta Garbage and the Trashcans, they consisted of Philip Chevron, Pete Holidai, Steve Rapid, Jimmy Crashe and Mark Megaray. Considered one of the earliest punk rock bands, they signed to Chiswick Records in 1977 and released two albums, TV Tube Heart and Ghostown. However they only really gained notoriety retrospectively as Chevron was later to go onto success with the Pogues.
After a farewell tour they split in 1981, and bar one benefit concert in 1987, they did not play together again until 2003. Bizarrely the catalyst for their reformation was Cait ORiordan, who whilst not in the original line-up of the band, had briefly been on bass duties with the Pogues. Whilst she subsequently moved on to other projects, original members Chevron, Rapid and Holidai have been augmented by Johnny Bonnie on Drums and bassist Jessie Booth and produced their first release in 28 years TROUBLE PILGRIM.
Its funny how rarely your preconceptions are correct. Somewhat naively I thought that the new album would sound not a million miles removed from their bygone days, but this album has a myriad of different sounds. As befitting more mature musicians, it is not all wham-bam-thank you-mam punk, but contains elements of garage rock, power-punk, 60s pop and Britpop.
Opener Trouble Pilgrim sounds like something the Doors or Byrds would have been happy recording in 1967, with swirling synth rapping the song in a quasi psychedelic feel. Matters continue in the same vein on The Concierge with the keyboards of Rapid balancing out the sometimes harsh vocals, although there is definitely a feel of the B52s in there as well. And just when I think Im seeing a pattern emerging, third track Second Avenue veers into the kind of mid tempo rock favoured by Springsteen or Mellencamp, with a nice mid song twist via a refrain stolen lock, stock and barrel from Darts The Boy from New York City.
They pay a touching tribute to their past with Joe Strummer. Having recently seen the Hillsborough Justice tour where various artists reprise Clash songs, it made me realise more than ever that, however well meaning Peter Hooton and Pete Wylie are, there will only ever be one Joe Strummer. Unsurprisingly, of all the tracks on the album this is probably the closest to the power punk sound of their youth. Nice to hear Clash stalwart DJ Scratchy get a mention in the lyrics as well. Joe RIP.
And so the album continues with each track being significantly different to its predecessor. Hook laden Heaven, the track Chevron admits is most likely to be released as a single, gives way to Words, a song that appears to have an into played on a stylophone, and then the Buzzcocks influenced pop song Tell Me Why. Close harmonies prevail on She Says Im a Loser, whilst A Package from Home is reminiscent of the Celtic ballads so favoured by American-Irish punk bands such as Dropkick Murphys and Street Dogs.
The Track Huguenot is the only one that correlates with the themes they raised in their much debated last release Ghostown, that is, their homeland and the effect of past political and religious divides. Chevron has described it as a song about the Irish dilemma with immigration and the paradox of how the country relied on immigrant groups for so long The Huguenot were the original immigrant group and they helped to build Dublin. The song deals with the knee-jerk racism you get today, all the racist manners and remarks.
Final track We are so Beautiful, chorus-wise, reminded me of Suede and thereby highlights the beauty of the album. Each track stands alone in its diversity of sound and topic. The band themselves feel that the album is sufficiently varied not only appeal to diehard fans of the band from back in the day, but also a newer, broader, crowd. They are also realistic enough to concede that they didnt make the album for people who bought TV Tube Heart or Ghostown as there were never enough of them in the first place!
So go check out the album, and whilst youre at it their two predecessors, and listen to a band forged in the punk revolution of three decades ago that had the guts to deviate from the three chord thrash that passed as the norm. Innovators now and then, they demand their place in punks long and varied history.