Music Reviews
Clinging to a Scheme

The Radio Dept. Clinging to a Scheme

(Labrador ) Rating - 6/10

It was in late 2008 that the Radio Dept. was bound to release their third album Clinging to a Scheme. While it is unknown whether this was the material to actually follow up Pet Grief, time has certainly become the major factor concerning the Swedish minimalists’ latest work. In spite of that, even the most impatient won’t mind. They’ve developed a loyal fanbase with an easily likable catalogue of airy synth pop that is so unspoiled you’d think that even the most argumentative type of personality would easily fall for its rhythmic metronome patterns and too-sweet turned revolting confessionals – thick earplugs are without doubt out of the question.

Come 2010, it’s fair judgment to doubt the hype surrounding Clinging to a Scheme, even if there wasn’t any in the first place. The Radio Dept’s conceptual standpoint has always taken refuge from outside influences, maintaining a safe route that is devoid of disheartenment because it’s never hackneyed. Johan Duncanson’s shadowy vocals seemed like the right fit for such delicate moments that proved to be memorable, not to mention as sticky as a mollusk. They rightfully charmed many when debuting Lesser Matters, a hook driven carousel that hazily spun many listeners through barely present danceable synths that were most fitting in the solidarity of one’s headphones, waiting for the timed keyboard touches to hit stride while the spacious ambience would whoosh in no time. Though it seemed to notoriously deceive with its chilled out proposal, the consistency cannot be faulted. The electro pop influences of yore rarely pulled out instrumental records like Slottet, No. 2 with such finesse.

After the unremarkably teasing David EP in 2009, the bets were on to guess the direction The Radio Dept. would take, especially when Pet Grief followed in the same fashion as its predecessor. Well, it could be said that Clinging to a Scheme is more of the same, with a few creative decisions that seem a bit directionless. Though the mucky production remains, that same brand-spanking sparkle of past albums has begun to rust. This Time Around immediately detects a linear route, except that the tempo is accelerated and the signature strums are altered. The Video Dept., the closest they’ve come to plagiarizing themselves, contradicts in how it makes one hum to the reaffirming sing-along, yet leaves one wondering how they could be doing so much more by now. It’s a maddening experience, especially when instead of reclining to the same programmed beats, they were always ahead of the curve in terms of actually giving headway to actual songwriting.

When The Radio Dept. decides to explore outside their claustrophobic tent of fuzz, the results are most prominent. A Token of Gratitude, one of the more lengthy TRD tracks, takes its time to reveal its tender swirls unobtrusively building up until it slowly enters one’s consciousness.  Heaven’s on Fire, the most adventurous of them all, plants a soulful grain of attitude to their almost inert pulse, welcoming trumpet fanfares and jangly uptown soul to their mechanized atmosphere. Although, when amiable track Never Follow Suits steadily unfurls, a disparaged mid-section rap sequence combined with Duncanson’s reverb drenched vocals just seems like a bit too much, plaguing an otherwise delightful reggae embrace.

The fact that Clinging to a Scheme turned out to be so thoroughly fickle gives the impression that its all too confusing schedule changes were mostly due to a lack of contentment over how the final product should’ve turned out. A four-year wait is inexcusable, especially when more than half of the album exudes familiarity. It’s peculiar how in album opener Domestic Scene, Duncanson mutters repeatedly the words, "We’re leaving just in time." It is as if they never really arrived in the first place.