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Radar Bros. - The Fallen Leaf Pages

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Artist: Radar Bros.

Album: The Fallen Leaf Pages

Label: Merge

Review date: May. 3, 2005

San Francisco's Radar Brothers might be the most fascinating boring band in America. Nothing in the band's toolkit predates Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," which was itself a bit the souped-up throwback.

The lyrics sketch scenes but don't fill in. The music, with its slow-thawing hooks and off-kilter whistling, surveys the ghosts of dead emotions. When the Radars strike gold, they're a reminder of why "cool" caught on in the first place.

What's fascinating about them? In an x-treme age, they’re damn near easy listening, baby. Their songs may be rooted in ’70s pop, but their ethos recalls the immaculate restraint of the pre-Elvis crooner. They communicate the full arc of human emotion without cracking a smile or a frown. They'll make a Zen believer out of ya. They're fucking consistent, coming and going. Their albums float with all the grace of a dark blue helium balloon approaching the ozone layer, or an acorn sinking toward the bottom of a mountain lake. If popular reaction is to be trusted, they bear about the same import.

More's the pity. There's too much music around. A lot of it’s swell. But taken at a glance, all the joyful noise bleeds into cacophony. In their calm detachment, the Radars pour a soothing antidote, mixed with full comprehension of the disease. There's sadness here, but it's behind the wallpaper.

The Fallen Leaf Pages settles comfortably into the band's canon, delivering no surprises, no gimmicks, no gags, no quirks and no affectations. Frontman Jim Putnam, by his account, writes these songs surrounded by the band, which explains the consistency. Radar Brothers are unmistakable, yet defiantly faceless. "Papillon" hints at anthemic sweep, then undercuts itself with that weird whistling. It's the only standout – the rest creates a mood of lackadaisical foreboding that overrides its parts. Which is how it should be, where Radar Brothers are concerned.

By Emerson Dameron

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