Seems pretty safe to assume that almost no one doubted Radioactivity’s ability to follow up their 2013 Dirtnap debut with something equally stunning. Frontman and chief songwriter Jeff Burke (The Marked Men, The Reds, The Potential Johns) has certainly done more than enough to earn that kind of expectation and pressure. But Silent Kill, which finds Burke backed by Marked Men compatriot Mark Ryan and two-thirds of Bad Sports (Daniel Fried and Gregory Rutherford), does more than merely match the virtues of its self-titled predecessor.
Radioactivity’s first LP was rightly hailed as a sort of sequel to The Marked Men’s remarkable run through the first decade of the millennium, and while Silent Kill bears the unmistakable hallmarks of that band’s tightly wound “Denton sound,” Radioactivity can now lay claim to a sonic territory of their very own. Burke’s distinctive hooks dig as deep as ever, but the scope of his vision has expanded, and now that the Burke/Ryan/Fried/Rutherford all-star team has had some time to cohere, Radioactivity can do all sorts of damage in less than thirty minutes.
Although the twelve songs on Silent Kill abide one strict rule–providing garage punk pleasure at all costs–Radioactivity bend that mandate in myriad ways. Breathless ragers like “Battered” and “No Alarm” are as fleet and raw as anything in the combined canon of Radioactivity’s members, while mid-tempo heartbreakers “Way Out,” “Connection” and “Where I Come From” find Burke and company opening up their sound to let in a little tenderness. And then there are songs like “Not Here” or “With You,” which enact perfect unions of melody and kinetic energy.
Admirers of Burke’s legacy will be not only satisfied, but pleasantly surprised.
Denton/Austin’s Bad Sports are back with their third album – and second on Dirtnap. Produced by the Marked Men’s Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke, Bras is a major departure from the ’77 pop/punk feel of 2011’s terrific Kings of the Weekend. This time the band brings a tougher, harder-edged sound and takes on a wider variety of musical styles. While still very much in the classic vein of Texan garage/punk, Bad Sports are also bringing to mind the heyday of New York City punk. With hints of Dead Boys snarl, Dictators thump, and even some artier Lou Reed/Television leanings, this record finds the trio refining its songwriting chops and rocking harder than ever. The album’s got a little bit of everything – from booming Cheap Trick style power pop to straight-up catchy garage punk to grimy proto-punk not far removed from Orville’s other band OBN IIIs. And while Bras builds on the foundation of previous records, quite frankly it blows away anything else the band has done to date. Scorching tracks like “Washed Up” and “Race To The Bottom” beg to be played at obnoxiously loud volumes, while “Nothing In This World” might be the best pop song you hear this year. Elsewhere, “Get You” and “Terrible Place” manage to satisfy the fan base even as they push the band’s sound to the next level. Lots of bands pay lip service to the idea of duplicating the energy of their live shows on record. Bad Sports have gone out and done it! Turn it up!