Mega Rama, the full-length debut from synth-pop trio Radical Dads, starts with a plea and leaves you with some questions. “Come on! Come on!/My friend, come back!/I’ve been waiting out here since the attack,” sing singer-guitarist Lindsay Baker and singer-drummer Robbie Guertin on opening track “Little Tomb.” The band formed only three years ago, but its songs speak of dedication and loyalty—the kind that is most often seen on the playground where innocent friendships blossom into “best friends forever” after five minutes on a swing set and a shared PB&J.
With its male/female harmonies that persist against a background of pop hooks, rock rhythms and harder guitar riffs—the combination of which are most effective on single “New Age Dinosaur”—Radical Dads comes close to veering into New Pornographers territory, especially on “Harvest Artist.” The track is reminiscent of the dueling vocals of A.C. Newman and Neko Case on “The Laws Have Changed,” but when the instruments begin to drop out in the stripped down mid-section, it becomes clear that Baker and Guertin’s voices lack the purity of Newman and Case’s. After all, playground friendships are rough and unfocused relationships—there is no time or need for polish when there are monkey bars to conquer, guitars to shred and drums to pound.
The album is deceptively simple. Upon the first listen, it feels like a collection of fairly commonplace, but good, indie pop tracks that have a strong tendency towards the, well, radical. However, the subtleties of the harmonies and of Baker, Guertin and guitarist Chris Diken’s playing begin to show themselves after repeated listens. Whereas the subdued beginning of “Hurricane” feels a little out of place when it first hits the listener, its ebb and flow is greatly appreciated after the album has been digested in its entirety. When Guertin sings, “Here comes the end,” when there is still over a minute remaining, a few seconds of pure silence lull you into a false sense of security before the hurricane hits with coalescing guitar effects, drums, and an insane wall of sound. When the actual end arrives with an eerie calm, you’re not sure if you should trust it.
While “Hurricane” needs that return to pure thrashing to keep it from drifting off course, the shockingly light opening of “No New Faces” benefits from its innocent vibe and calming rhythms. When the singers sweetly instruct you to “Look up at the skyline,” they make you feel as though that’s the solution to every problem you’ve ever had. Just like coming home from the playground after parting ways with your new BFF, you’ll be smiling.