Radkey – ‘Dark Black Makeup’

The Missouri brothers return with an album that's sinister, intuitive and packed full of riffs

Dee, Isaiah and Solomon Radke were always going to be punks. They’ve got the smalltown upbringing – the three brothers were raised in St Joseph, Missouri, where there’s nothing to do except get bored, grow frustrated and write songs about it. They’re natural outcasts, only attending school for a year before dropping out to be homeschooled by their mum Tamiko. And there’s a streak of the do-it-yourself, too – instead of hiring some industry suit, the trio got dad Matt to manage them instead.

Since Radkey formed in 2010, Matt has guided his sons from storming shows at South By Southwest to an electric appearance on Later… With Jools Holland, a couple of acclaimed 2013 EPs (‘Cat & Mouse’ and ‘Devil Fruit’), a tour the same year opening for noisy Derbyshire duo Drenge, and finally to Sheffield, where they recorded their debut album earlier this year. With producer Ross Orton at the mixing desk, ‘Dark Black Makeup’ is a freakshow of sinister tales, brotherly intuition and riffs, riffs, riffs.

Orton is a natural fit for Radkey: just as he gave Arctic Monkeys’ ‘AM’ its oomph and fire, he gives ‘Dark Black Makeup’ its dark black soul. The opening title track chugs along like teen goths skulking through a graveyard, until Dee’s deep voice booms through the chorus resembling Nick Cave fronting Misfits. His hellfire guitar playing grinds down to a thick sludge on ‘Best Friends’ before ‘Sank’ stomps out like Satan’s army marching into battle. Bassist Isaiah and drummer Solomon show brutal muscle when the pace quickens on Fidlar-ish oik chant-along ‘Le Song’ and the frantic Black Flag whirlwind of ‘Glore’. Radkey’s hardcore influences are obvious on ‘Song For Solomon’ too, with lyrics like “I’m a selfish asshole/I’m the one that’s causing all your stress” cribbed straight from the Henry Rollins book of ruthless self-abuse.

Grooving centrepiece ‘Hunger Pain’ is the only major break from the horror punk routine, Dee finding his inner crooner in its lounging tempo. If anything, it only threatens the momentum of a band who, through fearsome playing and an ear for the anthemic, have made one of the strongest punk debuts of 2015. Dad must be very proud.