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Media Reviews: “S/T” by Radioactivity

Grade: -A

There’s an odd sort of catchy quality that the lo-fi scene has relied upon since forming in the early 2000s.

It makes sense. With such basic production, and usually so few instruments, and only a basic ability to play their instruments, lo-fi bands often need to be relentlessly catchy if they have any hope at attracting and maintaining an audience. There are those bands that deliberately choose lo-fi recording to achieve a certain aesthetic, and who happen to be catchy anyway.

This is the case with Radioactivity, the newest project from Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan, both previous members of much-loved Denton, Texas punk rock band The Marked Men. This pedigree makes sense, as Radioactivity sounds more like a continuation of The Marked Men than an entirely new project, and the same goes for their debut album, “s/t.”

That isn’t to say the album is unoriginal. Throughout it, Burke sings over the same fast-paced guitars he did when he was in the The MM. It’s filled to the brim with hooks that are sure to stay in your head like its predecessor, and Burke is singing about the same stuff. But this time there’s that odd, distant quality to the production that comes with lo-fi recording. You get the sense that this album should have come out decades before it has; it feels important.

Lyrically, the album runs through typical songwriter flair, but with Burke’s signature delivery. Really, the lyrics here seem to be more placeholders meant for the sole purpose of balance, rather than anything particularly important. That isn’t to say there aren’t lyrics here and there that stand out. “I can’t stand here one more minute on my own/ but I need this time to find my way back home,” sings Burke on “Get Straight,” and the existential meltdown on “When I’m Gone” is pretty fun to listen to, but overall words come across as simply another instrument.

The music is where the album really shines, which is strange for a punk album. I will be the first to admit that most of the songs on “s/t” sound the same, but in an aesthetic sense rather than structurally. The songs are fast, with the longest track on the album clocking in at 3:17. This brevity, interestingly, really doesn’t take away from repeat listens. The songs are so fast and so nuanced, you’ll likely notice something new with each listen. Most of the songs consist of Burke and Ryan hammering on guitars, but there’s more going on underneath than one might initially hear. Few albums have lead guitar lines that are this simple and yet work so well with the rest of the ensemble.

Above all, Radioactivity is punk rock, take it or leave it. Catchy, fast, and fun. If that seems up your ally, you can’t go wrong with this record.

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