Extra Arms 2024
Photo: Sweet Cheetah Publicity

Extra Arms Set Out to Own Summer with ‘Radar’

Detroit’s Extra Arms make power pop look easy on their catchy, energetic new record, Radar. It’s a half-hour of no-skips, life-affirming, and no-frills rock.

Extra Arms
Setterwind Records
3 May 2024

While Detroit’s place in music history and future has never been in question, one corner of that city’s storied music history that’s less widely heralded is its contingent of fabulous power pop, from arena-size successes like the Romantics to cult bands like Outrageous Cherry and Hoarse. Extra Arms aims to write their chapter of that book on the excellent new record Radar

Singer-songwriter Ryan Allen has been a fixture in that scene for over two decades, from the emo of Red Shirt Brigade to Les Savy Fav-adjacent post-punk in Thunderbirds Are Now to straight-ahead indie rock in Destroy This Place. The red thread that ties those projects together is his seemingly endless supply of memorable hooks; he has a knack for absorbing the greats and putting his own spin on them. In Extra Arms, he and his bandmates Ryan Marshall, Daniel Stover, and Jordan Wright aim to provide a masterclass in power pop by throwing the key touchpoints in a blender and cranking the result to 11. If you’re looking for your road trip mix populated by Superdrag, the Cars, and Guided by Voices, take note.

As a whole, Radar resembles a kick-ass mixtape from your friend who knows how to sequence for maximum enjoyment. It’s a half-hour of no-skips, no-frills rock. Recorded live in the studio with Geoff Michael, it sounds great, nice, and loud with an optimal degree of polish and primed for a radio station that sadly no longer exists. You can practically hear the grins on their faces coming through these ten songs. There is a “get in, get out” energy to these ten tracks, with most songs coming in at around three minutes. Extra Arms released an excellent cover of Devo‘s “Gates of Steel” in advance of Radar, and it would have fit right in on here so well that it’s a shame it’s not included.

The opening track, “Be Someone Else”, kicks things off with a Thin Lizzy/Ted-inspired Leo positive jam. The record ends with similar energy on “Sit Back Up”, but adds some E-Street saxophone. It’s the type of closer that makes you want to give it another listen immediately. “All Good Things Take Time” is a hooky “keep your head up” anthem. These songs are testaments to how durable the power pop playbook is.

Elsewhere, “Inflatable Boys” is a hooky jab at the MAGA crew with drum machines and a memorable chorus. It’s easy to imagine people crammed up by the front of the stage singing along. “Shut Em Down” is another politically charged track with a drum machine start that quickly gets to an irresistible, simple chorus and great backing vocals. “Space and Time” features pedal steel and has a dash of country to go with the Elvis Costello guitars.

Thematically, Allen is feeling the passage of time on Radar. He’s a veteran musician who’s also in the throes of adult responsibilities like parenting and a day job. On “Mad Dog Blue”, he looks back at his wilder era to acknowledge those days are gone. “I Don’t Wanna Surrender” is a punchy Elvis Costello-inspired ode to not setting your dreams aside for a day job. “Your Highness” is a catchy, Superchunk-meets-Cheap Trick nugget that is one of the clear highlights.

Even though the songs cover some serious topics, there’s an underlying resilience and understanding that whether we like it or not, time will march on, so we might as well appreciate what we have while we have it. There will always be a place for life-affirming, fun rock, and Extra Arms effortlessly deliver those thrills. 

RATING 7 / 10