The Radiators

Trouble Pilgrim

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Only 27 years after Ghostown, the Radiators from Space have finally gotten around to making their third studio album (they were sidetracked by little things, such as breaking up in 1981 and Philip Chevron spending most of the '80s and '90s in the Pogues), and it's good to report that some things haven't changed much over the years. 2006's Trouble Pilgrim inhabits a stylistic middle ground between the group's scrappy debut, TV Tube Heart, and the significantly more ambitious Ghostown. The tunes are smart and Chevron and his bandmates clearly aren't afraid of a good rant, but this is less scrappy old-school punk than tough but tuneful pop/rock with a straightforward guitar attack and a lack of needless frills. For this reunion, Chevron is joined by two of the group's original members, Pete Holidai and Steve Rapid, and a new rhythm section, bassist Jessie Booth and drummer Johnny Bonnie, and the songs on Trouble Pilgrim are equally informed by the heart and the head, dealing with the larger world as well as the most personal concerns. "The Concierge" is a bitter but literate screed against the war in Iraq, "Hinterland" takes a similar look at the battle between Israel and Palestine, and "Joe Strummer" is a rapid-fire homage to the late Clash frontman and his cultural legacy. But elsewhere, "Words" is a quiet meditation on heartbreak and lost faith, "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" tells a moving story of childhood, and "Tell Me Why" is a gloriously hooky love song that ought to be a hit single. If Trouble Pilgrim doesn't sound quite like the way you might remember the Radiators from Space, it strikes an easy balance between their youthful ideals and their maturity in the 21st century, and this is music that's eloquent in its anger and compassionate without sentimentality -- not a bad formula for a bunch of aging punks, and it's good to have them back.

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