July 11, 2014

Review: Radiator Hospital | Torch Song

Among rock-and-roll songwriters, there are something like three archetypes: the industrious perfectionist, the chronic over-sharer, and, well, all those other people. Sam Cook-Parrott is most certainly of the over-sharing ilk. A perusal of his indie rock concern Radiator Hospital's Bandcamp page speaks to a prolific bent, and -- more importantly -- a mastery of power-pop that few Cook-Parrot's age can claim. His band's oeuvre presents an embarrassment of riches, with records that shift through various styles while reliably twisting nostalgia and heartbreak into arms-outstretched, sing-alongable anthems. Indeed, the best-of-2013 full length Something Wild [review] found Radiator Hospital equally adept at crafting potent, Hüsker Dü-descended pop-punk and crackly, confessional downer folk. Radiator Hospital's fizzing latest collection Torch Song is perhaps even more lean and refreshing, and ably hoists the act up onto par -- in terms of renown -- with its more-celebrated affiliates.

For many, Something Wild, and particularly its killer songwriting and vital perfomances, served as a proper introduction to Radiator Hospital. The runaway successes of Waxahatchee and Swearin' (certain members of which have contributed and continue to contribute to Radiator Hospital records) definitely cast some reflected glory upon Something Wild, but Radiator Hospital need not ride anyone's coattails. And Torch Song is the definitive proof. The set sparkles with uptempo, Buffalo Tom-styled rockers like "Five & Dime" and "Honeymoon Phase" as well as more pensive acoustic strummers like the bottomlessly poignant "Fireworks (Reprise)" and the concise gem "I’m Alright." All of it is delivered with remarkable economy. Indeed, Cook-Parrott is smart to remain true to the short burst, high reward modus operandi of Something Wild by opening the new set with "Leather & Lace," a thrilling punk ditty punctuated by drummer Jeff Bolt's frenetic rolls and a barn-burning final chorus. Elsewhere, the record's notable guest vocalists provide perfect foils to Cook-Parrott's high and lonesome singing, as both Crutchfield sisters and All Dogs' Maryn Jones each feature prominently on various tracks. However, Torch Song's greatest vocal turns come from Cook-Parrott himself, when he harmonizes his higher register with a laconic, gravel-y monotone. The verses of closer "Midnight Nothing" eschew singing altogether, opting for a sing-speak style conveys well the narrative nature of the song’s evocative lyrics -- before bursting forth once more with life-affirming choruses.

Torch Song is not only the best Radiator Hospital record to date, but it also includes its fair share of outlier ideas. The most intriguing of these is "Sleeping House," a late-album swoon that rests on nothing more than some minimal rhythm work and a droning, repetitive organ lead. In-and-out well before the three-minute mark, the song makes a strong argument for Radiator Hospital as ambient-pop project. Still, its likely just another genre experiment from Cook-Parrott: a guy who succeeds at those sort of things far more than he fails. Preorders for the Torch Song LP are being taken by Detroit-based label Salinas Records here right now. The record is also available as a pay-what-you-like download via Bandcamp; click through the embed below to purchase. -- Dillon Riley

Radiator Hospital: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

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