What percentage of pop music focuses on love, relationships, or break-ups, do you think? Whatever the answer is, it’s probably quite high – unsurprisingly. With that in mind, do we really need more songs about relationships coming to an end when we’ve already got so many? If Radiator Hospital‘s debut LP Something Wild on Salinas Records is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.
Radiator Hospital is a new band fronted by singer-songwriter Sam Cook-Parrott – here backed by members of Swearin’, Waxahatchee, and Very Okay. Once combined, Radiator Hospital crank out thirteen tracks of pop-punk by way of vintage, mix-and-match grab-bag indie-rock. Guided By Voices-esque eclecticism paints the track list throughout, from lo-fi downtempo acoustic numbers (“Big Cloud”, “Cryin’ Kind”) to huge hook-laden power-pop (“Our Song”) – the two even meet within the same song at least once (“Your Boyfriend”). What truly sets Something Wild apart from the rest of the pop-punk pack, is Sam’s subtly affective and honest lyrics. It’s been a long time since songs have hit me with the force found within Something Wild‘s highlights.
Immediate stand-out is break-up anthem “Our Song” – told from the perspective of a jealous lover who senses impending doom, the song brilliantly side-steps the acerbic hatred that so often bubbles under the surface of pop-punk. Instead, Sam’s lyrics take a brutally realistic look at the slippery situation from all sides. “Every other morning I wake up and find that you’re gone. The note says you went for a jog – maybe you’re just tired of sleeping in, or maybe you’d rather be running away” he wonders aloud. As the song comes to a climax and the relationship described within clearly reaches a breaking point, Sam sings “When you call your mom back, tell her that I’m the one leaving. You know she wouldn’t understand, and she shouldn’t have to, I won’t hold it against you” in what might be the most crushingly emotional yet melodically catchy lyric of the entire year. It’s absolutely refreshing to hear a song this completely honest while also resisting the act of raising its middle-finger – instead offering quiet rumination and understanding.
The remainder of the album follows suit, with emotionally nuanced lyrics over big, crunchy indie-rock. The only minor misstep of the album, in my opinion, is that the acoustic-only tracks tend to feel a little long. “Cryin’ Kind” is a nice song, but after a few spins you might find it interrupts the flow a bit. “Your Boyfriend” avoids this with an extremely memorable melody and by cranking up the distortion on its second half.
Despite this small issue, the lyrics remain strong throughout and there are plenty of other incredibly upbeat and catchy songs here. Listeners with an aversion to vocals of the nasal variety might need to give the record a bit of time to settle in, though (personally Sam’s voice reminds me of John K. Samson of The Weakerthans or Mac from Superchunk).
Otherwise, if you’re the kind of person who likes to obsess over a good ear-worm or two set to introspective lyrics, then Something Wild is just the ticket. Stream or purchase the album on Bandcamp or If You Make It.