Radar Brothers

  • Radar Brothers
  • Radar Brothers EP (Fingerpaint) 1995 
  • Radar Brothers (Restless) 1996 
  • Stay EP (Restless) 1997 
  • The Singing Hatchet (See-Thru Broadcasting) 1999 
  • Singles & B-Sides 1996-2000 (self-released) 2000 
  • And the Surrounding Mountains (Merge) 2002 
  • The Fallen Leaf Pages (Merge) 2005 

Los Angeles guitarist/vocalist Jim Putnam (ex-Medicine) teamed up with bassist Senon Gaius Williams and drummer Steve Goodfriend (ex-For Carnation) to form Radar Brothers immediately after recording material with Maids of Gravity. Heading in a not dissimilar direction, the Radar Brothers emerged as a SoCal leader of a new (for LA) movement: trundling bombastic post-shoegaze folk-pop.

The self-titled EP’s slow and moody indie-prog shows a definite style in mind. On the full-length debut, the band proudly indulges its early-Floyd influence. There’s fine artistry in these mellow songs, but simple progressions keep them from being really engaging. A standout, “Stay,” was expanded into an EP with three additional tracks.

Instead of adding excitement, The Singing Hatchet rests on somnambulant dirges and sleepy-eyed strum-alongs that are lyrically progressive but emotionally flat. That said, “You’re on an Island” and “The Pilgrim” are worthwhile, and “Find the Hour” adds some variety with pedal steel.

Picking up the ball they dropped on The Singing Hatchet, the Radars score from the three-point line on the outdoors-and-family-revering And the Surrounding Mountains. From the opener, “You and the Father,” the songs sound more Californian than previously (a bit more Eagles than Flaming Lips perhaps), but the pleasant harmonies are perfectly disrupted by S-turns and minor-key flourishes. The light and breathy delivery makes “Camplight” sound bold and important. “Morning Song” reveals a modest Modest Mouse influence, but “On the Line” is distinctively original. A keeper.

The Fallen Leaf Pages returns to the party with a stronger bottle of California vintage. “Faces of the Damned” slyly uses a kids choir, then “The Remember” kicks in like a long-lost Starflyer 59 track. “Papillon” and “Is That Blood” mix the band’s previous influences with Built to Spill. The landscape-evoking “Like an Ant Floating in Milk” suggests the influence of fellow LA band Geraldine Fibbers and/or their Euro labelmates Delgados. Like the latter band’s best, the majestic “The River Shade” and “Show Yourself” evoke multiple emotions. “Sometime, Awhile Ago” (“Sometime very soon / I’m going to be thinking / You’re going to be laughing at me”) has a smart arrangement. The late-night vibe of “Breathing Again” (“Who am I to lead you anywhere?”) is a reassuring closer. The album is a distillation of West coast nature-rock with a long-missing indie vibe. Expect a slew of wanna-bes.

[Jay Pattyn]