We’re hustling pretty fast to get this news out. We wish we could completely stop our day to day work, and concentrate on the publicity for this show, because its worth it. Signed to Merge Records (same as Arcade Fire, Spoon, M. Ward), the Radar Brothers have been putting out pretty sounds since I heard their 1999 album, the Singing Hatchet. Their recent effort, 2010’s The Illustrated Garden, has garnered terrific ratings as well, and we’re over-joyed to have them for an in-store performance tomorrow, Friday, September 17th at 6pm in our intimate backroom. It’s also WOW day downtown, so from noon to 4pm, we’ll be introducing a whole new generation of future alumni to our shop. So for us, the pay-off is grand. A busy morning, with a tremendous in-store performance to end our work day. Won’t you come join us?
The L.A.-based Radar Bros. — originally comprised of guitarist Jim Putnam (Medicine, Maids of Gravity), bassist Senon Williams (Dengue Fever), and drummer Steve Goodfriend — debuted with a self-titled EP (Fingerpaint Records) and quickly garnered themselves a following in the U.K. By 1996, the band had signed to Restless Records and issued a self-titled LP that combined sonic guitarscapes and smoky melodies, earning Radar Bros. a slowcore/sadcore tag and aligning them with peers Acetone and Low (while evoking memories of Neil Young, Brian Wilson, and Pink Floyd). Singing Hatchet followed in 1999, and the band supported its release with tours across North America, the U.K., and Europe. Three years went by before their sun-drenched follow-up was released, but And the Surrounding Mountains was a Crazy Horse-meets-Pink Floyd record that brightened the Merge Records release schedule in the spring of 2002. The band subsequently chose to stick with Merge, releasing The Fallen Leaf Pages in 2005 and Auditorium (their first album with guitarist/keyboardist Jeff Palmer) in 2008. By their 2010 release The Illustrated Garden, the band consisted of Putnam along with bass player Be Hussey and drummer Stevie Treichel.
The Illustrated Garden Review
After several solid albums– many of them released by Merge– and almost 15 years of effort, the bulk of Los Angeles’ Radar Bros. have jumped ship. Among the notables left behind is singer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Jim Putnam, who arguably has always been the band’s central figure. Ironically, getting whittled down to one primary member probably makes it easier to stretch out the lifespan of a band, and Putnam soon rechristened the group Radar Brothers and recruited a new rhythm section (bass player Be Hussey and drummer Stevie Treichel) to record The Illustrated Garden. Just as the band’s name is only slightly different, the new lineup’s sound is only slightly different as well, yet the impact of the changes is still felt. It could be just be a trick of the light, but Putnam’s songs here seem a little less elliptical than usual, the music more focused in its gauzy exploration of what could be loosely called Americana.
The “Americana” tag sticks thanks to the general country-rock tropes and all the natural imagery, but as usual the group excels at blurring the edges of an already blurry genre with spacey (but never indulgent) psych leanings, controls set for the heart of the sun but anchored comfortably down to earth. Songs such as “Quarry”, “Radio”, and “For the Birds” recall such fellow travelers as the Meat Puppets at their most desert-fried, but Putnam’s gentle vocals and the generally blissed-out disposition of the new lineup highlight the band’s allegiance to craft over sun-bathed affectation.
Indeed, when all else fails, The Illustrated Garden sure sounds great, with “Horses Warriors”, “And the Birds”, “Xmas Lights”, and “People” all echoing the settled, mellow spirit of the early 1970s. Each track glows like a golden hour snapshot capturing a certain sunset idealism (occasional flashes of menace in the lyrics aside), and if Putnam surely harbors no illusions at this point of his music’s reach, that doesn’t mean his songs shine any less brightly.