Wednesday, June 23

Apparently there was some football match on the other night, but I went to see Radio 4 instead...

Radio 4 @ The Academy

New York's Radio 4 blend politics, punk and funk in a way not seen since the heyday of seminal post-punk band, Gang of Four.

Opening with the persistent groove of 'Party Crashers', the lead single from their new album 'Stealing of a Nation' - it's clear that Radio 4 have moved onwards and upwards since 2002 album 'Gotham!'.

Anthony Roman's bass remains at the forefront of the band sound, as he twitches around the stage, blending perfectly with his vocal partner Tommy Williams' jagged guitars.

But it's percussionist PJ O'Connor that steals the show. Here is a man who is serious about percussion - just look at the determination in his eyes as he smashes his bongos with his fists and plays not one...but an entire rack of cow bells!

O'Connor's bag of percussion tricks adds weight to the rhythm section of Roman and the anchor provided by Greg Collins powerful yet funky drumming.

The switch from a 3-piece to a 5-piece that took place a couple of years ago during the 'Gotham!' period, is finally paying dividends for the band.

The addition of percussionist O'Connor and particularly Gerard Gerone on keyboards is showcased on the new, more dancey, keyboard-laced tracks like 'Money' and 'Absolute Affirmation'.

Whereas their Big Apple contemporaries !!! and The Rapture are content to let the music do the talking, Radio 4's political awareness gives them an extra dimension.

With issues ranging from Aids awareness, to the outlawing of dance clubs in New York on the agenda, a Radio 4 gig is never likely to be dull - though their complex messages are sometimes lost in their lyrics.

The highlight of the set comes at the midpoint, with the one-two punch of 'Pipe Bombs' and 'Struggle'. The former is a slow reggae influenced Clash style jam, the latter a full blown punk-funk explosion.

Finishing with an incendiary version of 'Dance to the Underground' the band leave the small but appreciative crowd at the front of the stage demanding an encore.

Reappearing to shouts of "New Disco" from the audience - "It's ask and you shall receive time" quips singer Anthony, before launching into the requested track, the most straightforward and punky in their armory.

"Where's Har Mar Superstar?" shouts a member of the crowd near the end of the gig, referring to the balding funkster's impromptu appearance on bongos at the band's Reading Festival show last year.

"He doesn't travel with us everywhere" replies singer/bassist Anthony with a smile.

The truth is, Radio 4 don't need gimmicks to get their message across, though with their new album not yet out and a certain football match on this evening, an appearance from Har Mar may have boosted the sparse crowd.

The New York five-piece are now finally realising their potential and new album 'Stealing of a Nation' looks like it's shaping up to be one of the albums of the year - now they just need to get people to listen.