It’s hard to make changes. They rock your soul. Try quitting a bad habit, or a toxic relationship. Try making good where you’ve wronged. Try standing up for your beliefs. Imagine the sinking feeling when Peter heard the rooster crow that day (Luke 22:54-62). When you’re down in a pit, you need “Hold On Tight”, the first single off “Beautiful Strange”. This song heralds the release of The Radio Sun’s fifth studio album, in as many years, on 24 August 2018.
The guitars are strident, and Jason Old’s voice encouraging. I get spoonsful of courage, similar to when I hear “Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot. The sing-along chorus of “Believe In Me” goes: “I can see forever and it’s in your eyes / No more hesitation, no more alibis / Believe in me, my fantasy” and I pause. Who’s talking here? Is it like when Samuel answers God, “Speak, for your servant is listening” in 1 Samuel 3:7-11? How do I interpret the two phrases together: “Believe in me, my fantasy”? On the one hand I’m like, “Dude, it’s a rhyming couplet. No analysis needed.” On the other hand, if it were His voice what should I take “my fantasy” to be? This is the beauty of the lyric. You can interpret it your way.
Anyone unlucky in love can relate to “Should Have Listened To My Heart”. When I hear “Wish I never trusted you, baby – should have listened to my heart”, I remember the adage “there are none so blind as those who will not see.” I like how the music is upbeat even as the singer is down on his luck, supported in the chorus by a trio of voices (commiserating, maybe?). Gilbert Annese’s drumwork compares favourably to that of No Doubt’s Adrian Young – it’s not that Gilbert plays a ska beat, but there’s something about the snare/kick rhythm here that makes me think of “Excuse me Mr.” off No Doubt’s “Tragic Kingdom”. I also enjoyed the tapping (hope I’m describing the technique correctly) in Stevie Janevski’s guitar solo, otherwise played legato. I’m a big fan of melodic solos.
The pace slows down with the heartfelt “As Long As You Want Me”, where reference is made to “a beautiful strange déja vu” – a cosmic connection between two people. When I think of this song, and look at the angelic figure on the album cover, I conclude that “Beautiful Strange” is all about love. It’s a thread that carries through all of the songs. For example, “Out Of This World” tells of a chance encounter, while a conversation unfolds in “Miss Wonderful”. I like how the tone is varied between the different songs. When the guitars ring out in “Miss Wonderful”, for instance, you can hear the bass come to the fore – a wonderful melodic groove courtesy of Anthony Wong. The players sound comfortable with one another, and take turns to step into the spotlight. A sharper edge is introduced in “Have You Got What It Takes”. It’s apparent in the stripped down introduction where you hear only voice and guitar – I’m especially fond of the rhythm here. When the verse starts, you can hear the grit in the tone, and it doesn’t hurt that a generous helping of wah wah pedal was lavished on the guitar in the solo. “I Don’t Want To See You Cry” is a firm favourite, where the staccato rhythms of bass and guitar play off each other. It’s great to hear the drums break out, and the double tracked guitars are a great choice to elevate proceedings to the stadium rock level. It truly soars.
Did you ever hear the “Lions” album by The Black Crowes? Do yourself a favour and play the first track, “Midnight from the Inside Out”. Now play “Hearts on Fire”, track nine on The Radio Sun’s “Beautiful Strange”. That squawk at the beginning is electrifying! Pinched harmonics contrast nicely with the vocal harmonies, and it sounds like the band have switched up another gear. If this were a stadium concert, the crowd would be on their feet and bouncing at the sound of “Beautiful Secret”. Starts and stops are impeccably executed; a testament to a tight musical unit.
The euphoria of the moment dissipates when you hear Jason lament, “Why did you not put on that ring, the symbol of our love”. “Five Years After” tells the story of love lost and a yearning as only unanswered questions remain. As listeners we have journeyed with the band; first, falling in love and then, out of love. And where to from here?
When I hear the lyric “We’re standing tall united / On, and on, and on for love”, I recall a recent sermon that reflected on the gospel of James. We read: “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25). We share a little of God’s grace in this world through our charitable actions, and if we persevere, we are sure to see society change its heart.
“Beautiful Strange” scores 9/10.
Written by Karakul
1. Hold On Tight
2. Believe In Me
3. Should Have Listened To My Heart
4. As Long As You Want Me
5. Out Of This World
6. Miss Wonderful
7. Have You Got What It Takes
8. I Don’t Want To See You Cry
9. Hearts On Fire
10. Beautiful Secret
11. Five Years After
12. Standing Tall United
Jason Old – vocals
Stevie Janevski – guitars, vocals
Gilbert Annese – drums, vocals
Anthony Wong – bass, vocals
Record Label: Pride & Joy Music, Germany / Anderstein Music, Japan
Release Date: August 24th 2018
Wrong Things Right (full-length, 2014)
Heaven Or Heartbreak (full-length, 2015)
Outside Looking In (full-length, 2016)
Unstoppable (full-length, 2017)
Beautiful Strange (full-length, 2018)
Video for ‘Hold on Tight’