It’s not often that bands emerge with such a strong sense of self in their first LPs, but New Jersey-based Rad Horror is one of the exceptions. Relative newcomers in this specific form, Rad Horror is composed of four members: Dylan Jackson Scott on lead vocals and guitar, Anthony Peterpaul on the drums, Paul Kartelias on the bass and synth and Rob Cruz on the guitar and trumpet and together they create 80s and 90s music and cinema influenced new wave alternative music. They write and record all their songs in someone’s bedroom, they fill the event rooms at small venues and they’re unafraid to be authentic. The band crept into the new wave alternative scene and is still not widely known to most audiences, but they should be. Their first full-length LP, Before You Got Too Cool is nostalgic, making you go on long drives to places you’ve never been and making you feel more adventurous than you actually are. Unsurprisingly, it reminded me of Halsey’s Badlands as Dylan Scott co-wrote and produced numerous songs on her debut album.
Before You Got Too Cool is an album of emotion, an outpouring of feeling that Dylan Jackson Scott, the band's frontman, channeled into a solid debut LP of 12 songs for this new wave alternative band. “I’m a Loser” opens the album and immediately establishes a relaxed vibe and interesting melodies. A bit self-depreciating (obviously with a song title like that), the song doesn’t idealize reality. Scott asks, “Am I at my bitter end?” and establishes a feeling of truth and comfort at the nostalgia of late 80s and 90s indie rock that emphasized emotion.
“Benzos and Cigarettes” was one of the band’s three singles before releasing the LP and it remains a staple on my most played playlist. Scott’s voice is clear and emotional, singing that “If you need somebody, I’m somebody too,” with strong background guitars that lift the song even higher. It’s haunting and beautiful while maintaining a let’s-get- in-my- car-and- just-be- together-and- drive vibe, plus it fits very well into a San Junipero a lá Netflix’s Black Mirror playlist.
Songs like the “Sunday Morning Coffee” are particularly repeat-worthy as both the bass and the drums hold a strong presence throughout the song and the lyrics find one hoping that things can be worked out. Rad Horror has produced an album of moments, specific feelings and emotions suspended in time. The all too short eighth song on the album “Sundress” evokes an image of lazy love on a New York rooftop in the heat of summer while “Take Me Back to Your House” is a needy, adrenaline-fueled car ride in the darkness. The final track on the album, “Hotel Room Pornography” is an excellent example of the dreamy new wave alternative quality that the band possesses, both lyrically and musically. Soft synth beats and the lyrics of a dream love create this realistic mythology between the lost boy and the dream girl mentioned in the song.
Rad Horror is also the rare kind of band who can take anything and make it their own: their Stranger Things-esque cover of the Chainsmokers’ “Closer” is a near perfect example. Strong synth beats not dissimilar to those in the actual Stranger Things opening are the grounding element that keeps the entire song feeling as if it’s ripped straight from the series itself. What thrills me, as a listener, the most about Rad Horror is their realism, the moods of tracks switch as quickly as human emotions do: from utter love and adoration to repeated revolutions that “I Don’t Want to Be Your Boyfriend”. They’re dramatic and brash, unafraid of anything which is what makes their music worthy of pressing the repeat button.
Rad Horror is a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously; they’re not attempting to shift the paradigm of alternative music or to become the most famous band in the world. Rather, they’re attempting to record moments in time, emotions and pure humanity with a sound that’s drawn inspiration from 80s and 90s indie rock. Band front man Dylan Jackson Scott has said that he doesn’t feel the same way now as he did when he wrote the songs featured on Before You Got Too Cool and that’s music (pun intended) to my ears as that means that Rad Horror is a band that will evolve. They won’t put out the same music album after album but will, instead, grow and explore humanity alongside their listeners. ✉
text by: shelby victoria
visual by: pbs