Radioactivity – Radioactivity (Album Review)

Radioactivity - s/t cover art

The Marked Men’s 2006 masterpiece Fix My Brain was one of the decade’s only indisputable basement pop classics. While their unexpected follow-up Ghosts was good, it failed to reach the heights of its predecessor. Afterwards, The Marked Men slowly disappeared, playing only a scant few dates a year, if that. Earlier this year the Denton, TX band headlined Dirtnap Records’ massive 14 year anniversary shows in Seattle and Portland, reminding everyone that they were still on the top of their respective games. Which brings us to the here and now; Marked Men members Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan’s new band, Radioactivity.

Radioactivity have just released their self-titled debut record and it more than lives up to the promise of their involvement. While Ghosts was an admirably slight misstep, Radioactivity feels like the more natural successor to Fix My Brain. Even though Radioactivity isn’t a Marked Men release, it has all of that band’s vintage staples in tact. Vocal melodies are crisp and catchy while the guitar-riff heavy arrangements offer up plenty of memorable hooks. All of this is anchored by a propulsive rhythm section that props up Radioactivity‘s most thrilling moments.

Generally when a band manages to put out a release that’s more than a dozen tracks deep there’s bound to be a weak track or two. Radioactivity avoids this trap in thrilling fashion, offering up 13 standout tracks that don’t deserve to be skipped over. From opening track “Sickness” to their final moment on “Trusted You”, Radioactivity pilots their way through an absurd amount of peaks and ultimately wind up with a new classic on their hands. It will be a legitimately stunning development if this record isn’t featured on several year-end lists, especially when taking into account some of the more specialized publications.

Trying to pinpoint all of the highlights on Radioactivity would be an exercise in gross futility because they’re peppered all over every manic track. Radioactivity’s energy throughout this, while not unexpected, is worth marveling over. All 13 tracks are emphasized by perfect sequencing and elevated by the record’s masterful pacing. Moment after moment is full of a rejuvenated sense of purpose, displaying a sense of uninhibited joy. This is a whirlwind masterclass in a certain style of songwriting and deserves to be in as many collections as possible.

Fix My Brain defined a genre for more than a few people and stood in a class of its own. After a seven year wait for something as worthy, Radioactivity’s self-titled debut has finally proved there can be something that joins its ranks. While it’s still Mark Ryan and Jeff Burke, the band do qualify as a new project despite all the similarities to its predecessor. Whether or not Radioactivity can improve on their astounding start is anyone’s best guess but a lot of people will be anxious to find out. After all, Ryan and Burke have proved they can duplicate their successes. If anyone’s capable of pulling off the miraculous twice, it’d be them.

Radioactivity can be purchased from the always reliable Dirtnap and can be streamed below.