In 1988, a band called Avant Garde was trying to make waves in the metal scene, lead by singer Kevin Ridel and guitarist Rivers Cuomo. Fifteen years later, Cuomo's band Weezer has sold millions of records, while Ridel finally hits reaches the masses with AM Radio's debut album, Radioactive.
Managed by long-time pal Cuomo, AM Radio bears its Weezer-association with pride. The album's heavy guitars are reminiscent of Weezer's latest, Maladroit, but Ridel's soaring (and stammering) vocals differentiate him from his manager's band. On "I Just Wanna Be Loved," Ridel aches for acceptance, yet on "Distant Shining Star" he stumbles through his performance. Most of AM Radio's songs are hit-or-miss: when Ridel nails the vocals, the band produces great pop ("Hush"), but when he is off, he exposes some of his weaker lyrics ("Media Life").
Despite the solid hooks, Radioactive is a tough album to get into. First of all, you need to look past the inane album title. Second, the first single off of the album, "Taken for a Ride," is one of the worst songs this year. The chorus ("had enough, had enough, had enough, of this stuff, of this stuff, of this stuff") defines lazy writing, and unfortunately this will be the first introduction to the band for many people.
Despite the best efforts of Elektra's marketing department, however, Radioactive is a solid debut from a promising band. Sure, they have some weak songs ("Neverwill") and some swagger that isn't totally backed up ("Stole the Show"), but the pure fun of tunes like "Oh Oh Oh" and "Take Time" makes Radioactive a guilt-less summer pleasure.