Music

New Radiant Storm King: The Steady Hand

Michael Metivier

Western Massachusetts indie rock vets make good on a long awaited return to aluminum.


New Radiant Storm King

The Steady Hand

Label: Darla
US Release Date: 2006-02-14
UK Release Date: 2005-10-04
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Insound affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Think back to that band you played bass for in college. You were royalty on campus, getting all the best gigs at all the neighborhood shops and clubs. You even managed to strike fear in the hearts of the feeble scenes at rival schools, adding acreage to your turf with every semester. Then graduation reared its responsible head, ending your reign of free flyer photocopying and endlessly replenished freshman fan base. The well was designed to run dry. It sucks, I know. But not all college bands are lost and forgotten when the caps are tossed. Some keep trucking, albeit quietly, while you're busy crunching numbers and sweating your 401(k). New Radiant Storm King, for example, are a model of rock and roll tenacity, tending their rock and roll flame off and on for a sweet 16.

With The Steady Hand, their first album in five years, remaining core members Peyton Pinkerton and Matt Hunter have roped in a couple new recruits and released an album that builds on the My Bloody Valentine and Black Flag-influenced noise rock of their youth and shows the baby-fatted longhairs of today how it should be done.

The Steady Hand, in a nutshell, is exactly what its name implies. Sometimes the steady hand smacks, as on the bitter "Quicksand Under Carpet", which takes a social climbing friend to task for their tiresome smarminess and offering the fantastic condemnation "You should live in L.A." Snap! And sometimes the steady hand is holding a pen, as on the struggling relationship missive, "Fighting off the Pricks", which debuted last year on the CD accompaniment of a love poetry collection. A lot of "sensitive" bands mess this shit up all the time, sounding either whiny or boorish when delving into relationship-speak. But "Fighting off the Pricks" does justice to the complications of mature love, even when it's dissolving. "I need you to see you're making your last stand / While holding on to me and fighting off the pricks with one hand." The fact that the song is irresistibly hook-filled is gravy.

The band sounds like a nervier, spryer version of early Foo Fighters, which would make sense considering the similarities in scenes from which the two outfits arose. As tight and melodic as anything currently proffered on the airwaves, New Radiant Storm King maintain a level of inventiveness in both their lyrics and performance that has kept them a cut above since their days at Hampshire College in the then-alt-rock-hotbed of Amherst, Massachusetts (think Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, etc.).

Thematically, The Steady Hand seems most interested in assessing the effects of time and adulthood on ones self and friends, as on the quirky "View of a Wedding, Part II" or the straight-forward "Anthymn". "Reckonings of who you should have been / Are by comparison / Sure of who you were ten years ago / Where does a decade go?"

The only missteps come when the band makes simple judgments. "Accountant of the Year" takes the easy road in its critique of corporate drudgery: "A brass plaque on the wall / Embossed with my name / Says twenty-five lost years later / I'll be a gold watch wearing slave." I get the point, but it's a point I've had delivered to me umpteen times, often from myself. There's far too little unique detail in the song to make it seem like more than a cheap shot. A much better reflection on what does or does not constitute a life comes on the brief, poetic "Yardsale Legacy", which describes "photographs of pets long gone / And postcards from Niagara Falls". The lack of judgment and the presence of carefully selected imagery speak volumes, even in a two-minute chiming guitar vignette. Which goes to show you that it's not always the biggest and loudest that are built to last; sometimes it's the underdogs still kicking around under the radar, steady

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image