It’s not every day your average family gets to take a tour across Europe and the U.S. playing music together, but it is for the brothers Radke. St. Joseph, Missouri natives Solomon, Isaiah, and Dee Radke formed a band before any of them were even old enough to vote. With the release of two promising EPs, Radkey had gained enormous amounts of positive attention from critics and fellow musicians alike, playing with big name bands like Drenge, Titus Andronicus and The Offspring as well as playing major festivals like Afropunk, Coachella, and South by Southwest. After all of this hype, the band was still very young and without a proper debut album. As a trio of brothers with the music world’s anticipation on their backs, they discovered a way to not only avoid disappointment, but exceed expectations.
Dark Black Makeup very well could be one of the most impressive debut records of this year. Bringing influences from the 1980s punk scene, lead vocalist Dee Radke has often been compared to a young Glenn Danzig of the Misfits. Despite the uncanny similarities between the sonic qualities of these two vocalists, Radkey is not a Misfits reincarnation, but rather an entirely new and growing entity of their own. Radkey is both the future and the past, in a sonically paradoxical sort of way. Their sound is not quite garage, not quite punk, but a delightful mix of both. Rock and roll needed these brothers to bring back what seems to have taken a backseat to being hip and in-the-now: a fearless approach to the simple act of rocking. Energy, urgency, and carefree guitar riffs scream out alongside hammering bass and pummeling drums. Lyrically, Radkey explores ideas of love and the feelings of loss and despair while still incorporating plenty of “na na nas” and “oohs” and “ahs” that tend to lighten the mood of the album. However, Dark Black Makeup takes a more somber turn on “Hunger Pain.” There is a certain emotional elevation that stirs the listener to bear some of the heartbreak in Dee’s voice as he sings, “…could it be just you and I? No? I’ll just feed until I die.” After “Hunger Pain,” Radkey explores insecurities in an honest way that is almost a little funny. Perhaps funny isn’t the best word you might use to describe it, but “Song of Solomon” somehow has a way of making the listener crack a smile, if not because of its upbeat sound, but because it’s a relatable story of self awareness.
Maybe what makes this record so great is the shared experience between its young and talented musicians, having literally grown up together. Maybe it is the variety of influences either forced upon or accepted by them, having been homeschooled just up the road from here in a small pink house in St. Joseph, Missouri. Regardless, these brothers have already made a name for themselves in an over-saturated music industry, and they still have a long career ahead of them.