Beat the Radar "A Million Different People"
The second album from up-and-coming Manchester indie rockers Beat the Radar arrives following a number of line-up changes that saw the band reduced to the core duo of vocalist/Bassist Jonny Swift and Guitarist Laurie Hulme.
They certainly have the musical spirit of their home city’s history in their veins; Channelling the musical aesthetics of early Factory artists, its in the distinct drum patterns, the spare atmosphere and claustrophobia, the grey-hued yet melodic sense of doom that do it; all these touchstones make out their geographic and stylistic territory. Hulme lets magnificent swirls of jangling vintage sounding guitar meander across the likes of ‘Eyes’ (a tribute to his daughter) where there is beauty and longing but also dark clouds. While elsewhere, the guitars on ‘Delight’ and ‘Cowboy’ sound like they may well have been transferred straight off the first couple of REM albums.
Swift’s drifting vocals maintain a sense of sincerity as he makes his way through these personal, if guarded laments, though it can turn to a whimper on occasions (‘Sleeping On The Moon’ and others) which is far less attractive. ‘2009’ releases the tautness of the other material, and is very nearly a low-sung Pavement-eque groove of a song, so its disappointing that it slopes off after a premature 90 seconds. Conversely, ‘You Need Us’ is a fine pop song, tainted with melancholy, indecision and an early Morrissey-esque sense of place (“so you turned and walked away, spent a night in Whalley Range…a stranger took you by the hand”) set against beautiful Johnny Marr inspired scenery (ironic, seeing as the chords seem to mirror The Cribs’ ‘Victim of Mass Production’, which Marr co-wrote). The closing title track is one of the most ambitious sounding on the record, where the pounding and circling introspection sounds turbo-charged and nearly ready to fill stadia.
On occasions BTR share similarities with equally 80s inspired New Yorkers The Drums, who mine a rather similar vein of influence, though of course BTR are that much closer to their sources and the city they grew from. ‘A Million Different People’ has its moments of great beauty but one gets the feeling they are yet to fashion their masterpiece.