Had our old friend Henry been alive today, there?s a good chance that The Fallen Leaf Pages would be repeating constantly on his iPod. If it?s presumptuous to assume the literary giant would savour the somnolent South Californian waltzes that radiate and swoon from the Radar Bros. fourth album, it?s certainly fair to recognise there?s a poetic kinship in the lyrics. The Fallen Leaf Pages, like its three graceful predecessors, is a languid incitement to reverie: nature in its dark and fragile glory seems to twitch and struggle against a shimmering, Super8 backdrop of desert landscapes; crackling sparks from dying campfires; blurred tapestries of towns and forests from a Greyhound window?
Formed in 1994, the Radar Bros are Jim Putnam (ex-Medicine), Senon Williams (Dengue Fever) and Steve Goodfriend (The For Carnation). Early label mates and friends of Beck after their early recordings were released on Fingerpaint Records, their eponymous debut album was released in the US on Restless Records in 1996. After Restless floundered financially, Radar Bros. found a new, spiritual home at The Delgados? Chemikal Underground label in Glasgow. After releasing two critically acclaimed albums (The Singing Hatchet - 1999); (And The Surrounding Mountains ? 2002) and touring extensively with more celebrity admirers (The Breeders, Modest Mouse) their harmonious, country-tinged meditations on life, death and most things in between were garnering a steady core of passionate supporters. Their old label mate Beck even nominated them for America?s prestigious Short List Prize in 2002 for And The Surrounding Mountains.
The Fallen Leaf Pages was recorded and mixed at Putnam?s Skylab Phase III studio and if nature seems to be the album?s pervasive theme, it?s little wonder given the tempestuous impact it had on it?s creation: engulfed in a torrential LA downpour early in 2005, Skylab Phase III sustained serious damage and threw the whole recording process into jeopardy before frantic efforts helped Skylab through its third reincarnation to Phase IV. It?s no surprise then that the album seems to capture the beauty and coldness of Mother Nature at her best and worst: warm, reflective moments are often clouded with twist of a dark lyric; a sable observation about regret; a requiem for lives lost or opportunities missed. It?s also this darker, more powerful side of the Radar Bros. that comes to the fore in their live performances: guitars seem edgier, the bass more emphatic, the drums more insistent. It?s fair to say that the Radar Bros. - while being no less compelling - are an altogether more forceful, driving and (dare we say it) rocking proposition when witnessed live.
The Fallen Leaf Pages then, is a wide-screen, wistful journey - as reminiscent of a Terence MaIlick movie as it is of albums by Neil Young or Pink Floyd. A tender and beautiful piece of work that requires patience and attention to detail but repays both by transporting you to a place of beguiling beauty and dark, poetic wonder.