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Intrigue in cacophony: Radiator Hospital’s “Play the Songs You Like”

| Monday, November 6, 2017

JOSEPH HAN | The Observer

On Oct. 20, Radiator Hospital released “Play the Songs You Like,” a playful and thought-provoking collection of 16 tracks that falls within the DIY rock genre. The new album marks a return for the Philadelphia-based band, whose previous full-length record, “Torch Song,” was released in 2014.

The album begins with the song “Long Distance Dedication,” which runs slightly over a minute and provides a brief introduction to the ideas that the rest of the album fleshes out. The song paints a nostalgic, albeit mildly disturbing, image of a familiar area in a crumbling town and is addressed to a person who has died.

As the album progresses, universal themes like love, heartbreak and infatuation become artistic focal points. Songs such as “Out of Mind” and “Pastoral Radio Hit” emphasize captivation with a romantic interest and express the oddity of living in someone else’s mind as a result of being present in their life. Later on, listeners gain a more concrete sense of the band’s cynical and obsessive take on love, specifically in the track “Love Story,” which defines love as “cruel and undefined” and ends by expressing the notation, “I just wanted you all to myself.”

The song “Dance Number” questions where meaning can be found in life once love is lost. In one of the most thought-provoking lines, lead singer Sam Cook-Parrott croons, “I find meaning in this life when I wake up every day / but I’m feeling sick and tired in new and frightening ways.” The line, like many of Cook-Parrott’s other simple but profound lines, draws its power from relatability, expressing the conflict between seeing the value in life itself and somehow still growing more jaded everyday.

“Play the Songs You Like” has many tracks with meaningfully beautiful lyrics, however the sound of the music is jarring and discordant in contrast. The loud guitar and the droning tone that the singers adopt detract from the messages hidden within the songs, not only because the music and words do not connect to each other, but also because it is difficult to hear the lyrics without very actively focusing in. The overarching sound feels lighthearted and summery, but in some sense also slightly immature. Yet, fans of group’s previous effort “Torch Song,” will find the sound familiar.

In addition, the album feels somewhat inauthentic in that it is trying too hard to capture a specific feel. The cover art is bright and eye-grabbing, but it portrays a random assortment of objects such as beer cans, flowers and spaceships and as such is difficult to make sense of. It seems that the band is trying to play up drug use and a giddy sense of chaos.

Overall, “Play the Songs You Like” has a fun, inviting vibe and thoughtful lyrics, though Radiator Hospital might more carefully consider how to effectively and cohesively communicate their messages.

Artist: Radiator Hospital

Album: “Play the Songs You Like”

Label: Salinas Records

Favorite Track: “Dance Number”

If you like: Florist, All Dogs, Waxahatchee

Shamrocks: 2 out of 5

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