Is That Danzig?
Missouri-based brothers Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke started their garage punk band Radkey when they were just teenagers, releasing two EPs in 2013 to much critical acclaim. Two years later the band has released their debut LP, Dark Black Makeup and it sounds just a bit like they want us to jump in a time machine to the 1980s, where simple horror punk vocals and driving bass were all a band needed to stand out from the norm. Their sound evokes comparisons to any number of legendary old school punk bands, with a hard rock twist, which isn’t a bad thing on its own, but it does very little to help them make a mark as their own unique band.
Dark Black Makeup is clearly intended to sound like the natural progression from their earlier EPs, Cat & Mouse and Devil Fruit, but while they do sound more mature, they also sound slightly less sincere. There’s a sense that a few too many voices from the record label came along and messed with their sound, leaving the whole album feeling like it was made less for the love of music and more for the love of radio play.
The album starts with title track, “Dark Black Makeup,” which may easily be mistaken for Danzig’s most recent single — not exactly what a band should be striving for in 2015. It’s not their most punk moments that really make a splash on this album, but rather it’s when they step back from trying to sound like their influences and try to be their own band they really shine. “Hunger Pain” is a highlight on the record, showcasing the band’s more genuine, softer side. A heavier focus on this in a future record could really work in their favor; their voices all sound beautiful together. And, of course, it makes them sound a little less like a Misfits cover band. Though this sound does appear occasionally in other songs on the album, like on “Sank,” the emphasis remains on their more driving punk style, which is just a bit overdone at this point.
When you get down to it, there’s nothing bad about Radkey. They are talented, charming and clearly motivated to take the music world by storm, but when so many other bands are taking their love for early punk and turning it into something wholly unheard before, there’s nothing remarkable about them either. Presumably this level of originality will come with time, though there are other young kids who have been able to overcome their age and experience (see: the Bots, who are also brothers!) but there’s no hope for that if they continue to have their sound watered down by striving for marketability. Hopefully the release that follows Dark Black Makeup will give us something more exciting. They definitely have the potential.