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Wednesday, March 19, 2003



Radio 4: "Gotham"

The new dance-punk that's been coming out of Brooklyn the past year or so has mostly been produced by out-of-towners. As one of the few affordable bohemian enclaves left in New York City, the borough attracts a sizable number of fledgling rock bands looking to make names for themselves.

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Radio 4 is the exception. The three core members take pride in their native-son status, so much so that they named their second album "Gotham!" All 13 tracks were written and recorded before Sept. 11, but weren't released until six months after the attacks, and the band's wholehearted embrace of postpunk dance music in songs with titles like "Start a Fire," "Save Your City" and "Certain Tragedy" seems to have spooked locals who felt the ambiguities were too problematic. While Radio 4 ripped up the local club scene with its "new disco," the album -- just released in Japan -- found greater acceptance in Britain than it did in the United States.

That's not as surprising as it sounds. Their name taken from the title of a PiL song, Radio 4 channels the new-wave funk of English bands like Gang of Four and Wire more directly than peers Out Hud and The Rapture do. Among contemporaries, Radio 4 have more in common with Primal Scream, and used the production duo DFA, who contributed to Scream's "XTRMNTR," to give "Gotham!" a clean, punchy sound. Radio 4 is also politically unambigious. The Radio 4 single that is credited with calling attention to the dance-punk scene is called "Dance to the Underground," two versions of which are included on the Japan edition of "Gotham!" as bonus tracks. In "Calling All Enthusiasts," vocalist Anthony Roman exhorts listeners to "check the scene it's the latest thing/dancing to the sounds of bomb testing."

By augmenting the usual power trio configuration with a full-time percussionist, the band can fulfill its disco priorities more easily. While Roman intones the band's manifesto, "The ideas of the ruling class/should not be the ruling idea," P.J. O'Connor lays down a bouncing water bed of timbales and congas. Radio 4 is antiwar, but right now their chief project seems to be fighting a New York City ordinance that prohibits dancing without a license. It's a fight they're peculiarly suited to.

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